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(3.5 Stars) "Dragon" is an exciting martial arts film with amazing fight choreography! But...,
This review is from: Dragon [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Filmmaker Peter Chan ("The Warlords", "Perhaps Love", "Comrades: Almost a Love Story") and writer Oi Wah Lam ("Purple Storm", "Perhaps Love" and "The Warlords) are best known for their film collaborations in Hong Kong.
And the two return with their exciting, action-packed martial arts film "Dragon" ("Wu-Xia") starring Donnie Yen ("Ip Man", "Hero", "Iron Monkey"), Takeshi Kaneshiro ("Chungking Express", "House of Flying Daggers", "Red Cliff") and Wei Tang ("Lust, Caution", "Man-Choo", "Finding Mr. Right").
The film was nominated for eleven Hong Kong Film Awards and won two awards for "Best Cinematography" and "Best Original Score" and did very well in the Chinese box office grossing over 100 million yuan on opening week.
"Dragon" is presented in 1080p High Definition and presented in 2:35:1. While picture quality is very good, with lush surroundings and very good set design to capture China ala 1917. What captures your attention throughout the film is the choreographed fighting. Both Yiu-Fai Lai and Jake Pollock did a magnificent job of capturing the fight scenes, and the use of CG to give the feeling that the location of where the film was shot is near the cliffs and waterfall, the combination of real scenery and green screen was used effectively.
Close-ups of characters show plenty of detail and black levels are nice and deep. For the most part, picture quality is very good for the film!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"Dragon" is presented in Mandarin Chinese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. While the film benefits from its action and the breaking of wood to people being thrown all over the place, the film's lossless soundtrack can be summed up with clear dialogue, beautiful musical score from Kwong Wing Chan, Peter Kam and Chatchai Pongpraphan and crowd ambiance. For the most part, the lossless soundtrack was very good, not very immersive but yet appropriate for this film.
Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
"Dragon" comes with the following special features:
The Making of Dragon - (22:27) Risks and Rewards, Framing the Action, Choosing Jimmy Wang Yu, A Different Role for Takeshi Kaneshiro, The Ins and Outs of Acupuncture, Family Dynamics, Tang Wei in the Countryside, Wai Ying Hung on Working with Donnie Yen.
Featurette with Donnie Yen - (5:40) Featuring three featurettes featuring Donnie Yen: Staging the Action, Influences and Inspiration and On Set, On Location.
"Lost in Jianghu" Music Video - (5:14) Music video for "Lost in Jianghu", theme of "Dragon".
When it comes to Asian cinema, the fact is that filmmaker Peter Chan has worked on some major films from "Comrades: Almost a Love Story", "The Warlords" and "Perhaps Love", producers know they are getting a director who has consecutively led to box office hits.
And part of that is due to Peter Chan managing to land the top stars of Asia in his films. And with "Dragon", it's no different. Box office hit in China and you have two of the top Asian talents starring in the film, Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro.
Donnie Yen is a staple of martial arts films especially in the last few years, after seeing "Ip Man", you can't see him doing anything less than that. And what I like about Donnie Yen's involvement in a film is that he pushes for amazing fight choreography and does not take on martial arts films that are weak when it comes to fighting. And like his previous "Ip Man" films, "Dragon" showcases that fantastic flair of fight choreography at the highest level.
As for Takeshi Kaneshiro, you have one of the best dramatic actors. He may not be a martial arts fighter but he makes it up in the more dramatic scenes. In this case, an investigator who knows there is more to Liu Jinxi (portrayed by Donnie Yen) that meets the eye. A relentless investigator seeking out the truth, the things he does in order to prove Liu Jinxi wrong, definitely is surprising as he intentionally pushes Liu off a bridge or sticks a sickle on his shoulder.
You also get actress Wei Tang who took a risk in Ang Lee's 2007 film "Lust, Caution" and as a result for participating in the film, she was blacklisted by the Chinese government and losing endorsement deals. Despite being 34-years of age, she still manages to look very young on camera. But she provides another dramatic angle as a wife who wants to stick by her husband and hopes he doesn't abandon the children, when his past life is revealed.
As for the Blu-ray release, while picture quality and the lossless soundtrack are very good. You also get a good amount of special features which I'm happy to see included on this Blu-ray release (as many Asian films released in the USA tend to skimp on special features).
While I enjoyed "Dragon" for being one of the enjoyable martial arts films I have seen so far in 2013, having watched so many Peter Chan, Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro films, it's hard for me to say this is their best film. Enjoyable...yes. Awesome fight choreography...yes. But an engaging storyline? If anything, it was a bit more of a popcorn action martial arts film and nothing more or less than that.
The film tries to explain the deep hate that Liu Jin-xi has towards his father, but it would have been great to establish visually of why we should despite his father and helping set up this amazing confrontation between father and estranged son. Also, the film ends with somewhat of uncertainty.
Overall, "Dragon" is an exciting martial arts film with amazing fight choreography! While I have seen better Peter Chan, Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro films, there is no doubt that martial arts action film fans will enjoy "Dragon". It's definitely one of the better martial arts films I have seen on video released in 2013 so far!
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 23, 2013 4:34:32 AM PDT
Joshua Pearl says:
Posted on Oct 3, 2013 11:13:44 AM PDT
I've always hated the term "Wuxia". Does this film have action scenes where fighters are flying around in the air like fairies? Too many films I've seen in that past 10 years or so have that unrealistic looking acting sequences of flying endlessly when they leap forward or up. ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" etc.,) And I just hate that.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2013 7:49:35 AM PDT
[KNDY] Dennis A. Amith says:
In the case of this film...yes, there are exaggerated movements.
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