Cinema Epoch // 2005 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 4th, 2007
Hanging with Hung.
Sammo Hung (Martial Law) headlines this lighthearted kung fu romantic comedy romp. If such a genre were to exist, I submit that this entertaining little number would hold a dignified place in the top echelon of titles.
Hung is a Tai Chi master named Dragon Ki, a legend in his day, who leaves his family to seek enlightenment in a secluded mountain village. Back at home, his son, Ki Fung (Huang Xiao Ming) finds himself competing for the affections of a beautiful girl with Cheung (Richard Ng), the local hotshot and a renowned karate champion. Cheung bullies Ki Fung into submission, forcing the humiliated man to seek out his father and learn a few moves that would put him back into contention for the girl. He takes his goofy best friend with him, and as Ki Fung tracks down his father and begins his training, he and his pal meets a couple of lovely village girls and the embers of love are gently fanned. But Cheung hasn't forgotten his rivalry, and the culmination of the film will pit karate against Tai Chi in all-out battle royale.
Legend of the Dragon is a good movie with a bad title and an amusing mix of corniness, humor and kung fu that should give fans of Asian cinema a taste of something different -- if a bit syrupy and light.
What gives the film a unique flavor is its humor. Ki Fung is a luckless-in-love guy, who's oblivious to the hot Tai Chi female student and the vibes she's sending out. He friend is just as hapless, totally intimidated by his crush, a local teacher. Together the two friends get into a pile of embarrassing situations an misunderstandings and, yeah, I know this sounds like a nausea-inducing treatment for a big-screen adaptation of Saved by the Bell, but the melodrama works here and is nowhere near as annoying as it could have been. This is due to the charismatic performances by the actors (subtitles and all), particularly Sammo Hung, who brings that lethal-lovable teddy bear shtick with him to his role. Sprinkled within the film are weird When Harry Met Sally-like scenes with the actors addressing the audience and delivering some kind of life lesson or rumination -- bizarre, but kind of funny.
The film isn't rife with action scenes, but the final showdown between Cheung and Ki Fung is a well-staged batch of fun, and not in the least bit malicious. The two combatants are friends, so they don't loathe each other with enough passion to make the fight down and dirty. Afterwards, they will confess their admiration for each other and everyone ends up happy with the girl of their choice and there are no hard feelings. In fact, their rivalry is far less ferocious than Daniel-San and Johnny's, giving you a sense of the gravity the filmmakers are going for. Still, I couldn't help but get a kick out of the fisticuffs in the finale, even if it isn't knock-down drag-out Jet Li-caliber of fighting.
Legend of the Dragon isn't your typical Asian fighter import, but that's a good thing. Its playful humor, Dawson's Creek-lite storytelling and memorable characters add up to an enjoyable film, which, while it may not make anyone's top 10 list, proves to be a quirky Friday night diversion that can be enjoyed by even the most virulently anti-kung fu girlfriend.
This is a lean release. The video is a non-anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen that looks okay, though the image is a little too soft. The audio: 2.0 stereo in the original Chinese, with optional (ha) English subtitles. No extras.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Chinese)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated