Action Movie Fanatix Review: Fist of the Red Dragon

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It Is A Time Of Lawlessness.  One Man Must Face The Challenge And Win The Heart Of His Nation.

Starring: Donnie Yen, Yuk Wong, Fennie Yuen, Kwan Hoi San, Ng Man Tat, Sheila Chan, Hung Yan Yan

Director: Yuen Woo Ping & Chan Chin Chung

1993  |  91 Minutes  |  Rated R

“He’s a very good fighter.  It’s sad, he’s still so naïve.” – Wong Fei Hung

Fist of the Red Dragon.  I assume the title was created by combining the five most common words used on Chinese and Hong Kong cinema.  Of course, the original title, Heroes Among Heroes is a lot more fitting but I assume Fist of the Red Dragon was deemed more martial arts sounding for U.S. store shelves.

Expert fighters must band together in an ultimate martial arts showdown when Southern China’s High Officers begin smuggling opium over the border and endangering the lives of the local villagers.  With no one to protect them and an Emperor who does not honor them, the people turn to the master fighters Lin Zexu (Pau Fong), So Chan (Donnie Yen) and Wong Fei Hung (Yuk Wong).

The story isn’t completely incoherent but the pacing and tone are way off.  There are some very slow, dull moments early on that really bog this movie down.  It is during those early moments that we are hit with a barrage of hilarity like buck teeth, silly voices and fast forwarded eating scenes.  Hilarious.  (please read previous two sentences with as much sarcasm as possible)

The music is equally off the mark.  It is never even close to fittin the feel of the scenes that they are supposed to.  The music could have been added when the movie was brought to the U.S. so it is possible that this wasn’t the original film makers’ faults.

Needless to say, there is no Red Dragon of any kind.  There are however a lot of fists.  The early fights are really very average.  I kept thinking that it just HAD to get better, and it did.  All of a sudden it was like Yuen Woo Ping finally showed up to choreograph some fight scenes.  Actually the fights picked up when Donnie Yen’s character got hooked on opium.  Hmmmm, coincidence?  I think not.

From here on out every scene is an excuse to put two people in a room and get them to fight.  Some of them lean quite heavily on crazy wirework, which isn’t really my thing but the core of the fights, the martial arts, is very strong.

Everything culminates when the no longer drug addicted So Chan fights Prince Barac (no connection to Obama that I am aware of) and takes to his father’s favorite style of fighting, drunken style.  This is easily the best part of the movie.  Donnie Yen is finally able to fully unleash and he does so in a very unique way.

Fist of the Red Dragon aka Heroes Among Heroes isn’t the best work from either Donnie Yen or Yuen Woo Ping.  There were far too many moments where I was left bored, annoyed or disappointed.  A few fights make it worth a watch but I expected better from the teaming of Yuen Woo Ping and Donnie Yen.

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