Action Movie Fanatix Review: Heart of Dragon

Warrior, Brother, Protector, Friend

Starring: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Emily Chu, Corey Yuen

Director: Sammo Hung

1985  |  90 Minutes  |  Rated R

“Can’t you arrest him?” – Auntie

“It’s not illegal to be an asshole.” – Ted

Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung are like the first sons of Hong Kong action cinema.  They have worked side by side for years.  Heart of Dragon isn’t exactly what I would expect from two of the legends of Hong Kong action and martial arts, though.

Ted (Jackie Chan) is a SWAT officer who dreams of becoming a sailor.  He is unable to chase his dream because he is has to look after his mentally disabled brother Danny (Sammo Hung) or Dodo as the kids call him.  After Danny gets himself into trouble with the law and a group of jewel thieves Ted risks everything to keep Danny alive and out of prison.

Heart of Dragon is a very different movie for both Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung.  The majority of the movie doesn’t even have any martial arts in it for the first hour or so.  Jackie seems be doing his very best as a man who has had to give up his dreams to be a good brother.  Sammo’s portrayal of a mentally challenged Danny is a little too over the top, though.  Even the fact that they had him sporting a bowl cut and overalls the majority of the movie felt a little too stereotypical to be taken seriously.

Neither actor is horrible in their roles but they seem like unlikely choices for the majority of the movie… that is until the movie makes a quick switch from drama to action.  The transition is done very well though and doesn’t make it feel like the action is just tacked on at the end.

The opening scene has Jackie doing some gun play, not something we get to see all that often.  It looked good even if it was just a police exercise.  Side note: The Commander’s eyebrows are ridiculous, although I had a science teacher as a kid who had eyebrows just like them.

The next 45-50 minutes are all about the relationship between the two brothers.  Surprisingly it doesn’t get boring.  I was actually blown away with Jackie’s acting here and it kept me enthralled all the way through.  Some of it is comedy and some is very heartfelt.  One part that got a laugh out of me is when Ted and Danny are walking home holding hands Ted tells every person they walk by that “He’s my brother” to make sure they aren’t mistaken for homosexuals.

Oh, and you “get” to see Sammo Hung’s ass in a sexy little bath tub scene.  Ooo la la.

At about the 50 minute mark the movie officially makes the switch to action.

The car / motorcycle chase is great fast paced fun.  Even though I know these are trained drivers doing the stunt work I am wholly impressed with what they were able to pull off.  It’s all done at high speeds without CGI… a rarity these days.

In the last fifteen minutes we finally get to see Jackie do what Jackie does best.  He unleashes with some of his classic martial arts in a construction site which, of course, gives him plenty of objects to use with his particular brand of fighting.  Unfortunately, Sammo Hung doesn’t display his skills in this area at all.  It probably wouldn’t have made much sense at all for his character but I still kind of expected to see something, even if it was just a little flash of his brand of martial arts.

Generally if I am picking out a Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung movie I am expecting non-stop martial arts action.  For that reason, I just don’t see myself watching Heart of Dragon over and over.  I am glad to have watched it and it is very interesting to see them both in different roles but this doesn’t even come close to being a favorite of mine for either actor.