As the enigmatic paper-maker in a small idyllic town with the unassuming name Liu Jinxi, Yen has finally delivered a performance which equals that of Ip Man, one that showcases his best as a dramatic actor and as a martial artist.
Aubrey Lam's story raises a number of moral dilemmas, in particular whether a man can truly start anew without having to atone for his past sins, and whether there is a place for humanity in a world governed by laws and regulations. This is at the very heart of the complex intertwining relationship between Liu and Xu (played by Kaneshiro), and a fascinating one which director Peter Chan explores with panache. There is no hero or villain between the two rather, both are simply pushed up against each other by their past and the circumstance by which they had made their mutual acquaintance.
Wu Xia follows Tang Long (Yen), a sinful martial arts expert who wants to start a new tranquil life, only to be hunted by a determined detective and his former master. The plot relies heavily on the detective to develops two characters. This makes Tang Long, who's our main character, not interesting to follow. We never really get to learn much from Tang Long himself, it's always someone else telling us something new about him. It does on other hand get everything else right. The detective character is interesting to follow since both him and the audiences are completely unsure about Yen character. It feature some great scenes and dialogue between Tang Long and the detective. Even though Tang Long wasn't as interesting to follow, he did have more as stake and seeing how he dealt with his demons is exciting to see unfold. It does go into dark territory which benefits in making the more important dramatic scenes more powerful. Despite a not so interesting leading character, it does get other elements down correctly to make a brilliant drama.
Donnie Yen has never impressed with his acting, but that changed after seeing this and I do think even without violence he's great to watch. Though the script isn't the only thing that worked against him. While he did do a good job showcasing his dramatic side, he's very limited to the range of emotions he can give making it bland at times. Although there's little action here, the few set action pieces are done really well. Takeshi Kaneshiro was perfect and very believable as the detective. It's truly a mystery why he wasn't the star. Tang Wei who played Yen wife was good and even she outdid Yen in the acting department. Though the second best actor has to be Yu Wang, despite not having much screen he's very effective. It makes me wonder why the filmmakers didn't switch Yen and Wang roles.
Wu Xia is a powerful drama that overcome its uninteresting leading character and actor to deliver both a gritty and intelligent drama. Fans of Yen might be disappointed by the lack of action, but that shouldn't take anything away from this great movie.
The story takes place in China in the year of 1917. A man named Liu Jinxi (Yen) resides in Liu Village with his wife Yu (Tang Wei) and their two sons. One day, two men try to rob the local store, which Liu just happens to be present. The two criminals end up dead, and Liu is the only one that walks away. The unusual event catches the eye of Xu Baijiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a detective who is convinced Liu isn't the man he says he is. Once Xu has confirmed there is more to Liu than meets the eye, the psychological conflict between the two men begins. Both actors, Yen and Kaneshiro are fantastic in their roles, with fine
character development enhancing their stellar performances.
Liu is a complex character, determined to live an ordinary life, but evidently hiding something terrible. The opening scene depicts him dining with his family in a tranquil home, and it is so genuine a moment that his sincere desire for reform cannot initially be doubted. However, as word of his whereabouts spreads, Liu's resolve is sternly tested, and he is forced to directly confront the demons of his past.
The first fight scene is entertaining in itself, then magnified when attack is meticulously reconstructed in Detective Baijiu's mind. The action is replayed, with an added focus on the crucial moments. The method of physiology in which Detective Baijiu analyzes the crime scene and attack is unique and captivating. Director Chan uses a range of visual effects, particularly to add precise detail to the development of internal wounds, a technique that remains effective throughout the film.
The last 20 minutes of "Dragon" take you completely by surprise. The conclusion of the last fight will make or break your opinion of the film. Nevertheless, "Dragon" delivers swift kicks and a barrage of bone crunching punches to the standard expectations of a remake. "Dragon" is a stunning display of martial arts action, mesmerizing detective work, and engaging performances.
Liu's village in the Chinese mountains is invaded by gangster robbers. While Liu is protecting himself from an attacker, he punches the guy behind the ear and instantly kills him. This attack garners attention and a detective comes in to investigate the incident. The investigator starts digging skeletons out of Liu's dark past.
"Take this. I guarantee it won't cut him."
Peter Chan, director of The Warlords; American Dreams in China; Dearest; He's a Woman, She's a Man; and Comrades: Almost a Love Story, delivers Dragon. The storyline for this movie is actually very interesting and unfold very well. The acting and the martial arts are really worthwhile. The cast includes Donnie Yen, Kang Yu, Yu Wang, Wei Tang, and Takeshi Kaneshiro.
"My father saw I loved the horse...and fed me its flesh without me knowing."
I am a huge Donnie Yen fan and I am a little ashamed I had never seen this. This was so good and a different type of film for him. The drama was well presented. There are some very unrealistic and cheesy scenes towards the end, but the overall film is worthwhile if you're a martial arts fan. One of the better films of Yen I have seen in a little while (his new stuff is inconsistent).
"We're here for the money."