Martial Arts
Legend of the Red Dragon
Dir: Wong Jing
Star: Jet Li, Chingmy Yau, Miu Tse, Deannie Yip, Chuen-Hua Chi
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 1994
Format: DVD R2

When his wife and entire village are betrayed and brutally murdered by Manchu soldiers, the master warrior Kwun (Jet Li), takes his infant son Ting who survived the attack and goes into hiding from the ruthless bounty hunters sent after them by corrupt government.
For Seven years, they journey across ancient China on their quest for revenge, always staying one step ahead of the deadly army. But Kwun is forced to face the past when they come across a wealthy benefactor with 5 young Shaolin monks in his charge who, unbeknownst to Kwun have the detailed map to a priceless treasure trove tattooed on their backs. As if that wasn't enough for him to handle, the benefactor decides to take seductive young con artist "Red Bean (Chingmy Yau) to be his wife. It doesn't take long for the government to learn of the maps, and the soldiers soon come after the monks. Now, in a battle that will pit Kwun against one of the very soldiers who betrayed and helped kill his family, he and Ting will unite with the very able Red Bean and the young monks of Shaolin for a fight to the death....

Written and directed by acclaimed Hong Kong director Wong Jing so as you would expect it does lean toward the cheesy and over the top end of the chop socky movie market but still very stylishly done. The illiberal story basically comprises various elements from history and folklore and has incorporated a scene or two from other classic movies for good measure, in typical Wong Jing style. There is plenty of shameless use of wire work and the wires are often visible. Despite that, it on the whole it works rather well. There is some fine martial arts choreography courtesy of Corey Yuen and an abundance of fast paced action, featuring some cool set pieces and sequences. There is some cool weapon choreography, especially Spear and long staff, with which Jet Li excels but overrall there isn't anything new or special. The whole affair plays out like many other similar films and were it not for the excellent Jet Li and Chingmy Yau, I probably wouldn't have given it a second viewing.

A good cast headed by the excellent martial artist Jet Li. He is very restricted as Kwun as all his combat is using the Spear, so it doesn't allow him a full range to really let rip but his fight scenes are still cool. Definately NOT his best work at all. The alluring and stunning Chingmy Yau ( Naked Killer & City Hunter) once again gets to display her martial arts abilities in a Wong Jing movie and provides a very strong female lead (and is always a pleasure to watch). Deannie Yip is very funny as Red Bean's mother and she gets some brilliant scenes. The "camp" commander of the government forces, has the best line in the film with "oh. All this violence makes me queasy, do what needs to be done quickly". Completely inappropriate and hilarious, this may be due to American dubbing but it still gets a laugh. The remaining cast are ok, nothing brilliant but young Miu Tse is excellent as Ting, and handles the martial arts well.

All too often, Wong Jing insists upon loading humour and comedy into his films, which usually they can quite well do without. Legend of the Red Dragon is no exception and there are a few comedic moments here, admittedly most of them probably due to the awful dubbing in American accents which has plenty of "Bring it on" and at one point they even say "Loogies". Yes it is that poorly dubbed, lending a quite farcical feel at times to the proceedings. Some typical physical humour is thrown in as well, but you expect a little of that with Jing. Other than that, this is typical period martial arts fare, plenty of action based around the standard battling oppression and corrupt government stuff. Without the humour and a little more effort this could have been a superb period martial arts movie.

The attack on the Shaolin Temple, I thought was very badly put together and has Shaolin monks that don't fight or defend the temple, which really is a cop out. Perhaps the fimmakers didn't want to try and arrange a real fight. Budget constraints maybe? So with the easy defeat of the Shaolin Temple, the focus becomes Kwun and his adversary, Ling the man who betrayed his village. The finale is cool, and the clock tower battle is well done.

The riding off into the sunset was pure vanity and an example of cheesiness that will leave you with a smile. Not one of either Wong Jing's or Jet Li's best films, but an entertaining no brain, chop socky fest all the same.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Widescreen Good transfer
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (Dubbed Only) Not bad
Animated Menu
Selective filmographies for Wong Jing and 3 stars
Picture Gallery
Verdict Not a bad release with a couple of extras but nothingreally interesting am afraid. The horrendous dubbing is hard going at times, a "subtitle option" would have been an improvement.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home