Sunday, July 30, 2006

Dragon Tiger Gate Movie Review

Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue with their poseur hairstyles.

Director Wilson Yip reteams with Donnie Yen with whom he previously worked with in the last year's acclaimed Sha Po Long (a.k.a SPL) to deliver Dragon Tiger Gate; a movie that's loosely based on a decades old comic from Hong Kong by artist/author Wong Yuk Long (who makes an awkward cameo in the movie... he's the guy at the top of the pagoda).

Dragon Tiger Gate in the movie refers to a martial arts academy established by the Wong family. Dragon Wong (Donnie Yen) and Tiger Wong (Nic Tse) are the heirs to the academy but Dragon had forsaken the academy years ago. After being separated for many years the boys are both fully grown. A chance encounter briefly reunites the brothers but Dragon refuses to return to the academy. Meanwhile a cocky youth from overseas named Turbo Shek (Shawn Yue) seeks tutelage at the Dragon Tiger Gate. Will the brothers be able to iron out the kinks in their relationship? Will Turbo Shek be allowed into the academy? Will anyone have enough time got get a haircut?

Dragon Tiger Gate is a mixed package and it's not all good. I'll start with the good things first. If you're expecting a movie with excellent fight scenes you will not be disappointed. Donnie Yen shows us once again why he should be getting more work. His fight choreography and performance are top notch. Watch the scenes and observe. Every hit connects and every bit of it looks really painful. They were going for some serious bone breaking manoeuveres and the results really shine through on the screen.

Nic Tse impressively kicks his way through the movie while Shawn Yue has to be given credit for his devotion to his nunchuck martial arts although he's not all that convincing. Yuen Wah (the moustachioed landlord from Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle) is also in the movie. Many movies are content with having Yuen Wah just monkeying around (points fingers to Wong Jing). Thankfully Wilson Yip gives Yuen Wah a major fight scene in the movie... it would be a crime not to fully make use of someone who once doubled for Bruce Lee.

Another thing that I found very impressive about the movie are the innovative transition shots and shooting angles. A lot of CGI (Computer Generated Images) was used to achieve the seamless transitions and thankfully they are well done. A particularly impressive angle used in the movie happens near the beginning of the movie in a Japanese restaurant where overhead shots shows us 3 simultaneous fights. It's a chaotic moment but it's obvious that everything was well choreographed.

The CGI isn't always good though. It suffers a lot when they overuse it and the tendency to do that happens very often in this movie. Many things are rendered in CGI when they are better off being real sets or props. Perhaps it was cheaper to do them in CGI but it's certainly makes the movie a lot less immersive. CGI is also used in fight scenes to show off the character's special powers... things like this would look dumb in most kung fu movies but because it's sourced from a comic book it's an inevitable evil (although I loved the way they used CGI in the Stormriders movie).

Probably the worst thing in this movie is everything beyond the fight scenes. They are boring fillers that try to build up character history but end up going nowhere. Especially bad were the child flashback scenes. They even gave the child actors the ridiculous hairstyles you find throughout the movie... even to the child extras who beat up the Wong brothers in one of the many flashback scenes.

The story is paper thin. Having never read the comic books I can only assume that the filmmakers tried to squeeze in too many portions of the story in too little time. It's also extremely obvious through the end where everything is rushed. I felt they took a big shortcut with what should have been a big training sequence near the end of the movie.

In conclusion, Dragon Tiger Gate is worth watching for the action sequences alone. Be prepared to be bored for most of the movie though because the fight scenes probably only last for a quater of the movie. At all other times you'll be forced to listen to some uninteresting dialogue. I hope they make mega bucks with this movie though for 2 reasons.
  1. I want Donnie Yen to continue making kick ass fight movies.
  2. Perhaps someone will finally green light the Stormriders sequel after seeing a comic book movie do well.

posted by wyejon at Sunday, July 30, 2006 (permalink) |

3 wise words from our readers:

a golden opinion from Blogger The Great Swifty

A Stormriders sequel would be nice, but maybe Ekin and Aaron might be a tad too old for the roles now, and I'll kill anyone who tries to make a prequel again.

11:17 AM  

a golden opinion from Blogger wyejon

swifty: Nah... I think Aaron and Ekin are still up to it... if they can make it with Shu Qi in it as well then that would be the bomb.

If anyone makes a prequel lets you and me go kill them :)

12:16 AM  

a golden opinion from Blogger Probin

m so proud of donnie yen. my best chinese actor.

8:14 PM  

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