Dragonwolf (2013) Review

"Dragonwolf" International Theatrical Poster

"Dragonwolf" International Theatrical Poster

Director: Raimund Huber
Writer: Raimund Huber, Johan Kirsten
Producer: Chariyawan Tavoranon
Cast: Kazu Patrick Tang, Johan Kirsten, Macha Polivka, David Winters, Guk Srisawat, Stephen Thomas, Bonnie Zellerbach, Sunanta Yousagoon, Janissa Charoenrach, Vincent Kinne
Running Time: 120 min.

By Dirac

From Raimund Huber – the director of Kill ‘Em All (2012) and Bangkok Adrenaline (2009) – comes Dragonwolf, a Thai-produced, English language martial arts film about two friends who meet on the street as kids, and work their way up the ranks of a local criminal empire in a fictional city known as Devil’s Cauldron.

Julius (Johan Kirsten) befriends Mozart (Kazu Patrick Tang, who also served as fight choreographer and stunt coordinator) and takes him under his wing. Julius teaches Mozart self defense, as well as the use of weapons. The two soon make a name for themselves as effective enforcers. However, trouble ensues when they begin vying for the hand of the same woman.

Weird dubbing: ✓
Occasionally confusing continuity: ✓
Decent soundtrack: ✓

Pretty standard stuff, but there are a few things that bothered me. I know that it’s a Thai production, but the fact that EVERY character was dubbed made the dialog delivery seem awkward. As far as I can tell, the actors originally delivered their lines in English, but everyone was still dubbed. For example: in one scene, Julius’ tall and slender lackey (I think his name was Brutus) was obviously overacting his lines, and the dubbing of the voice made the overacting even more pronounced! The result is pretty hilarious, which I doubt was intentional.

The action choreography was shabby and inconsistent. For instance, Mozart seems to be capable of battling waves of bad guys and comes out the other side more or less intact; at other times, he’ll sustain a seemingly trivial flesh wound that would knock him out. I suppose one could say the same thing about Special ID (2013), but Dragonwolf takes the concept to new level.

I’m hesitant to use the word ‘copied,’ but at the very least, some fight scenes were inspired by Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003). Aside from the hordes of stock bad guys, Mozart would occasionally fight unique villains that actually had speaking lines (the two Russian guys, for instance), but the dialog was so silly that it got tiresome quickly. The ‘fight hordes of bad guys’ formula works really well in films like The Raid 2 (2014), but that movie had good writing, direction, cinematography, and editing on its side.

In terms of continuity, some things felt like they were tacked on; I won’t give away these plot points, but toward the end of the film, there’s a Deus Ex Machina plot device, as well as a twist that left me shaking my head. They could’ve been trying too hard or taking themselves too seriously, but these moments had a jarring effect that made me wonder: what went on during writing and pre-production? Also, it helps to be careful when using flashbacks liberally. I’m no filmmaker, but isn’t there a right and wrong way to intersperse flashbacks? At times, I wasn’t sure if I was watching a flashback or not.

I won’t criticize this film because it had a small budget, but the sets mostly consist of dilapidated buildings. If I didn’t already know the film was shot in Thailand, I would’ve guessed that the production crew chose a series of abandoned auto factories in Detroit. Maybe heavy industry in Devil’s Cauldron had fallen on hard times, due to an economic downturn or something? But, I digress. I did like the ambient soundtrack; I thought that its application per scene fit well, and didn’t feel discontinuous like the plot did at times.

I’ll wrap it up by saying that with a little more time and TLC, this film could’ve been better. I can see that the writer and director probably put considerable effort into it, but with odd post-production choices (dubbing!) and sloppy writing, Dragonwolf fell flat.

Dirac’s Rating: 4/10

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