Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Dragon Tiger Gate 龙虎门 (2006)

AFAIK, the 3 heroes of Dragon Tiger Gate are powered by Solution X. Apparently a shampoo brand.

Several thoughts were swimming through my mind as I watched Dragon Tiger Gate. Like, how do the three heroes manage to fight when their hair perennially flop over at least one eye? How does Donnie Yen actually beat evil minions up when he has hair that flops over both his eyes? Why does the villain look like Raoh, the overpowered final boss of the Fist of the North Star arcade game, and has the same cloak that deals insane HP damage?

Okay, maybe the evil minions are typical movie minions, blindly rushing into the fists, feet, or weapons of the protagonists. And if Donnie Yen can’t really see clearly the wall of minions that come crashing towards him, he’s got this move like the Hadouken from the Street Fighter arcade game that creates a force to clear the mob away without even touching them.

Now, when you have Donnie Yen as the fight choreographer for a wuxia movie, the last thing one expects is fantasy fight scenes assisted by wires and CGI. You wouldn’t expect to see heroes who are invulnerable to minion attacks for more than half the movie. And you certainly wouldn’t expect veteran stuntman and fight choreographer Yuen Wah, displaying technical proficiency in the Chinese glaive, to lose in a fight to some “god move” by the villain, whose fist glows red moments before the killing blow.

After the freshest take on fighting choreography in last year’s SPL: Sha Po Lang, with its innovative, fast paced, and realistic sequences, I don’t really know what Donnie Yen was doing in Dragon Tiger Gate, a film that is carried more by its CGI and comic book fighting than his choreography. After the brilliant storytelling in last year’s SPL: Sha Po Lang, I don’t really know how Wilson Yip manages to write a script that is filled with bad dialogue, poorly thought scenarios, and plot holes the size of the craters the villain leaves on the floor, pillars, and ceiling of his partially-CGI evil lair in the final showdown.

The worse part is, all this would be forgivable if this were a comedy in the vein of Wong Jing’s Future Cops, but the problem is Wilson Yip doesn’t set out to make a campy spoof of the original wuxia comic this movie is very loosely based on. There is, I am sure, an intrinsic value in unintended humour arising from cheesy dialogue from all characters, cutesey and abysmal acting from Nicholas Tse, who again manages to ruin every martial arts and period film he stars in (think: A Man Called Hero, The Promise, A Chinese Tall Story), and a badly-written script (why oh why doesn’t the silly girl use a broom to sweep the scattered beads on the stairs onto the floor and then gather them with a dustpan, instead of picking them one by one?), but this movie wasn’t made as a comedy, and this is indicative of a very bad movie project.

This film would be just fine if it were directed and written by Wong Jing, choreographed by and starring Stephen Chow, and has Ng Man Tat as the godfather of the hero. If Wilson Yip went all out to make this even more of a bad, campy, and nonsensical movie, I would actually be entertained. As it stands, this film fails at being a serious fantasy martial arts movie, yet it isn’t farcical enough to qualify as camp. It’s also a major disappointment to fans of Donnie Yen’s classic performances in Iron Monkey, Once Upon a Time in China II, and SPL: Sha Po Lang.

First published at incinemas on 28 July 2006

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