Dragon ("Wu Xia", "Swordsmen")
Official Selection, New York Asian Film Festival 2012
Official Selection, ActionFest 2012 (closing Film)
“★★★★★... wildly imaginative and thoroughly compelling” - Edmund Lee, TIME OUT HONG KONG
Liu Jinxi is a likable guy, humble, a bit goofy even, and devoted to his lovely wife and young sons. A papermaker by trade, he’s been a resident of the village of Liu for a decade. A pleasant and uneventful decade, rudely interrupted by the arrival of the vicious criminal Yan and his nasty henchman at the town store. Liu stumbles in on the duo’s robbery attempt. Despite his apparently clumsiness and ignorance of fighting techniques, Liu is the last man standing when the dust settles — and the crooks lie dead. The townsfolk celebrate Liu’s surprising victory, but the big-city detective Lu Baiju has his suspicions. How could a shuffling, hapless craftsman slay a brutal and experienced fighter? Or more to the point: how could that craftsman land a blow to Yan’s temple so precisely that a fatal hemorrhage instantly occurs?
Under its original title WU XIA, Peter Chan’s smash hit DRAGON boldly takes as its name the term for the entire Chinese martial arts adventure genre. But one had better not announce a kung fu flick so definitively titled (and publicize it with a billboard in Shanghai so big it broke the Guinness world record!) without being certain that it really is a film against which others of its ilk will be judged. In every respect — production values, scripting, acting and of course fists ’n’ feet of fury — DRAGON is that film. Each shot is carefully composed yet fluidly natural. The seemingly clichéd scenario is invested with intelligence and dramatic power. The sound mix is mesmerizing and the fights, choreographed in part by star Donnie Yen, breathtaking. Takeshi Kaneshiro (RED CLIFF, K20) resonates with the bottled pain of the troubled investigator Lu. And as the layers of Yen’s character are peeled away, he delivers a multifaceted performance of unprecedented skill and subtlety. Over the last 30 years, Yen has risen through the ranks with hits like IRON MONKEY, HERO and IP MAN. DRAGON is the film that confirms Yen’s acting chops, and may be the one that earns him the kung fu icon status enjoyed by Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.
— Rupert Bottenberg