Director: Danny Lee
Starring: Stephen Chow, Teresa Mo, Leung Kar Yan, Yuen Wah
A young and simple kung fu student Lung (Stephen Chow) wishes to see the world at large, beyond his small island village. When a colleague of his father (Yeung Kar Yan) comes and discovers the naive Lung’s not inconsiderable talent at snooker, he smells an opportunity to score some quick cash. Joining his conman ‘uncle’ to the big city, he climbs the ranks of snooker players using his unique blend of playing and kung fu training. With success on the world stage, will Lung forget his father (Yuen Wah) and training partner (Theresa Mo) and forget the tenets of his father’s teachings?
One of Stephen Chow’s earliest forays into the type of comedy that would make him a star. Directed by Danny Lee, the film is filled with Chow’s trademarked style of comedy, but at a somewhat restrained level. That’s not to say it isn’t crazy on occasions, but it’s definitely more straightforward and accessible than many of Chow’s later work. The humor is mostly situational and a number of gags rely on Chow’s character’s status as a bit of a bumpkin. He gets to show off a bit of his martial arts too in quick little exchanges with a Triad gang and Yuen Wah. They’re short and played for laughs, but they are competently done and entertaining.
The supporting cast is good as well with Yeung playing quite a little jerk and Mo really going for it in terms of the comedy. Throw in some quick cameos by Amy Yip and Corey Yuen and it’s a pretty well rounded package. Production is solid with the lights and excess of 1990 Hong Kong offering a nostalgic and quirky visual style of the fish out of water moments. The music is typical late 80s early 90s fare; it gets the job done but wouldn’t be out of place at a carnival or as a merry-go-round melody.
The film has multiple great moments; from the always funny eating scenes, the over the top celebrations, and kung fu sight gags, there is a joke a minute and it’s very well paced. The snooker scenes themselves are showcases of terrific shooting and those familiar with the sport may marvel at the presence of the great Jimmy White. Sporting his trademarked hair and smirk, it is a throwback to the period when he was a consummate figure in the early days of ESPN.
A very entertaining if a bit laid back Chow comedy, Legend of the Dragon is a solid film that has been missed by recently converted fans of Chow, but offers a lot of the things that has made his brand of humor so popular. It’s a very funny film that aptly achieves its comedy with good direction and a great ensemble cast.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Shaolin Soccer, Tricky Master, and/or God of Cookery