Director: Wilson Yip
Starring: Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue, Dong Jie, Chen Kuan-tai, Yuen Wah, Xing Yu, Li Xiaoran
Teaming up again after their well received collaboration, SPL, Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip tackle a comic book adaptation in “Dragon Tiger Gate.” The film is about two estranged brothers Tiger, played by Nicholas Tse, and Dragon, played by Donnie Yen. They separated when they were children and have grown into very different lives. Tiger is the righteous defender of justice and very much an idealist. Dragon, however, has grown up as the bodyguard of a local gang leader and his daughter, the Ma family, all the while cultivating a familial relationship. Turbo, played by Shawn Yue, is martial artist looking to study under Tiger’s and Dragon’s uncle. Things come to a head when Ma wishes to retire and in turn sets himself and everyone involved into a fight with Shibumi, the leader of the most powerful gang.
The film boasts the fantastic choreography of Donnie Yen as its largest selling point. The main audience that this film is directed to is action fans and the film does indeed deliver. The pace is fast and an action scene is always around the corner. Wilson Yip uses some interesting techniques during the film, such as the scene of Ma Xiaoling picking up prayer beads after they’ve fallen down a set of stairs leading to a pagoda. The set designs are cool and well shot and the film brings a modern approach to heroic swordplay films of years past.
The action scenes, being the main attraction, are fantastic. Yen is able to meld hand to hand martial arts with special effects to create a film that truly looks like a comic book come to life. The wirework is heavy, but is something that enhances the film and isn’t a proxy for a fight scene. Sets are destroyed and bodies thrown and it all culminates nicely into fairly satisfying cinema. The action is long with fights lasting full minutes with the final being the main highlight.
There isn’t really much going on in terms of acting; everyone does their job, that is, to get to the action. The females just kind of break up the manliness a bit but serve no real purpose than dressing and staging. Yuen Wah has a good role but ultimately is underused. It is always a bit of a bummer to see someone you love watching lose their edge because of age.
The film won’t satisfy some martial arts purists, but this movie isn’t really made for them anyway. The story itself is a bit weak, but it serves its purpose and isn’t overly complicated. In conclusion, I had a very good time watching the movie and it definitely is the type of film to cross borders and eventually draw fans even outside of the ‘hardcore’ Asian cinema circles. The film doesn’t carry any special meaning, but it is a fun entertaining movie that goes great if you are looking for an escape and time waster.