Monday, June 10, 2013

Film Review: Dragon (2011)

Dragon (Review)
China/2011
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Liu Jin-xi (Donnie Yen) is a seemingly normal paper worker, husband, and father. One day, two bandits attempt to rob a general store. The robbery goes bad and the family and employees are attacked. Liu Jin-xi is hidden in the store and eventually decides to intervene. Liu Jin-xi ends up clumsily defeating and killing both bandits. However, one of these bandits is an infamous criminal responsible for several murders...

Detective Xu Baijiu begins to investigate the deaths and also questions Liu Jin-xi's identity. How could a normal paper worker kill two bandits? His investigations reveal a different fight from what was originally perceived as pure luck - a fight that signifies Liu Jin-xi's exceptional martial arts skill. Liu Jin-xi explains his situation to Xu Baijiu, he explains his troubled past and the family problems that lie within. But, as Zu Baijiu investigates deeper, Liu's past returns to haunt him.

This isn't a pure martial arts action film. Dragon blends amazing action sequences, mesmerizing mystery and investigation, and drama. The action sequences in this story are large set pieces with significance - they are not small 2-3 minute fights. These few action sequences are stunningly choreographed and filmed, with exceptional use of slow-motion. The mystery is blended well and intensely into the story so it always keeps its momentum; the creative editing during these scenes really helps the mystery match the impact of the fight sequences. Although it works with the themes of the film, the ending of the film was a bit odd for what the rest of the movie developed.

The acting is great all-around. Donnie Yen gets a little deeper and more emotional during his scenes, especially as he speaks about his tortured past. Not only does he do a great job as a dramatic actor, he continues to excel as a martial artist. Donnie Yen also worked as the action director, and he does an amazing job; the action sequences are thrilling, edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. The entire film is beautifully-shot, the settings and costume design are fantastic. Peter Chan is also a superb director, delivering very tight yet smooth direction.

Overall, Dragon is a fantastic film. The entire story is an incredible hybrid of martial arts action and investigative mystery; a blend that manages to hold great momentum from beginning to end. The actual ending was odd and drifted further into fantasy than expected, but it is wonderfully choreographed and managed to follow a recurring theme in the film. Donnie Yen continues to excel as an actor and action director, I look forward to seeing him again. I highly recommend a purchase for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

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