Sunday, January 25, 2009

Movie Review: Dragon Lord

Jackie Chan's third directoral effort (after The Fearless Hyena and The Young Master), Dragon Lord isn't much of an improvement over his earlier efforts. The emphasis here doesn't seem to be much on fight scenes. Rather, Chan concentrates his efforts in two areas - playing the same sort of bumbling ne'er-do-well character he had played in many previous films, and showing off his physical skills in a pair of extended sports scenes, rather than the usual fights. I'm not sure if it was some reaction to the cheesy roller-derby contest from the earlier Battle Creek Brawl, but here we start off with a kind of four-team rugby match, and later in the film there is a strange soccer-hackeysack-badminton combination. Both scenes - particularly the soccer match - show off not only Jackie's skills, but those of his fellow stunt and cast members well.

Unfortunately, we have to get through a lot of other "comedy" to get there, most of which involves Jackie and friends goofing off and running afoul of their fathers. The problem here is that we've now seen that type of thing too many times, and Jackie sure doesn't look like he should still be playing the same slacker character. I understand that this was a reaction to the stoic Bruce Lee films, and yes, Jackie is still trying out a few things to see what works. But this variant was just not as interesting as some of the earlier versions. The comedy mishaps with the fathers are not set up nearly as well here as in Drunken Master, for example, and the feeble attempts at romantic comedy just take up space.

Furthermore, Jackie's character, Dragon, doesn't ever undergo any training sequence, or even seem to get any better as the movie goes on. He just has a basic level of kung fu ability, and somehow he manages to beat the big boss at the end without too much of a sweat. (Oh, and he manages to get off a pair of puns after the final victory that even Arnold Schwartzenegger would think twice about uttering.)

So I'll give him credit for staging some imaginative sporting scenes, but otherwise, this film is pretty much just treading water in Jackie's career. Two stars. Up next in my ongoing Film Festival: Jackie finds a better setting for his stunt work in the classic Project A.

No comments: