Cinelinx takes a whack at Donnie Yen's Dragon on Blu-ray!
After a quiet villager (Donnie Yen) has his past life as a killer exposed by an inquisitive investigator (Takeshi Kaneshiro), the criminals and assassins he once called family return to settle the score.
Directed by: Peter Ho-Sun Chan
Donnie Yen is synonymous with martial acts action films, and has made a name for himself as one of the best fight choreographers alive today. For Dragon, a 2011 Chinese production from director Peter Ho-Sun Chan, we certainly get the signature action scenes and incredible martial arts fighting from Yen, but we also get a great story and a riveting plot that allows Yen to really show off his acting ability.
The film opens with Yen's character of Liu Jin-xi clumsily fighting off two robbers who attack a merchant in his quiet village. The two robbers are killed, and investigator Xu Bai-jiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is sent to find out what happened. Xu is a bit too inquisitive, and he ends up uncovering Liu's deep dark secret, which ends up causing terrible unintended consequences for all involved.
The first half of the film plays out like a mystery of sorts, and Yen gets a chance to really prove his acting mettle, as he morphs from meek father to something much more confident and dangerous. Even with the lack of a dubbed English soundtrack, Yen's performance is quite riveting, and it doesn't take long for the viewer to buy into the premise, despite the language barrier.
The second half takes a much different turn, and the action does ramp up. There isn't nearly as much wire-fu as you might expect, which I have no problem with, because it allows Yen to give us some outstanding fight scenes. Without giving too much away, Dragon is an outstanding human drama with a unique blend of martial arts and family values. It isn't just a film for fans of Yen; it is an outstanding film for anyone. Don't let the name or the foreign language dissuade you. This is a film worth watching.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Dragon sports an outstanding high-definition transfer, with bold colors and impressive detail. This is a great-looking movie. There is no noticeable grain, pixelation, or motion blur to detract from the viewing experience. Audio is a solid 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, with excellent separation between the channels.
The Blu-ray is packed with some substantial special features, led by a documentary called "The Making of Dragon," which is actually eight featurettes grouped together to provide a comprehensive look behind the scenes. A music video is also included.
Three additional featurettes, which focus specifically on Donnie Yen, are grouped separately. The featurettes ("Staging the Action," "Influences and Inspiration," and "On Set, On Location") include interviews with Yen, who describes the process of staging the film's action scenes. It's amazing to hear how dangerous it is for stuntmen in foreign films; they obviously don't have a union. Yen speaks pretty good English, and shows great insight into translating action onto the screen. Hollywood should take note.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Overall grade: 8
Dragon is an impressive, surprising film. What should have been a bunch of kung-fu fighting is a smart, entertaining drama that connects despite the language barrier. This isn't just a movie for Donnie Yen fans; it's a great choice for anyone. Don't miss it.
Release date: April 16, 2013
Running time: 98 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Special features: "The Making of Dragon" documentary; Three Donnie Yen featurettes, Music video
Label: Anchor Bay