19 December 2008 | bob the moo
Terribly weak for the majority but finishes with an excellent final twenty minutes
His father wishes that Young Dragon would be a great student and attend to his classes, but Dragon himself is full of youth and is just as interested in fighting and chasing girls. Full of arrogance and confident in his own knowledge, Dragon continues down this path until he finds that he has stumbled onto a plot to steal Chinese artefacts.
Everyone has said it before me but I will add my voice to those here that believe, for the vast majority, this is a very poor Jackie Chan film which sort of redeems itself towards the end. This surprised me because I have been watching a few early Chan movies recently and, for all their faults boring is never a word that I have had occasion to use until now. It is probably because the plot is so weak for the entire film even by the standards set by martial arts films of the period. For the first two-thirds of the film what we get is light comedy and some sports action involving a game where you chase an egg and also a cross between football and badminton. These are interesting ideas I'm sure but they do not come off in practice, with even the impressive moves in these sequences being lost in a sea of banality. The usual bed of comedy that can normally be relied upon in Chan films is also much weaker than normal, with basic pratfalls and little in the way of witty dialogue.
A lot of this comes from the writing but reaction shots are also weak not down to the cast being unable to deliver but rather Chan the director not catching them. It is hard to describe but, if you wrote a list of the things that normally work in a Jackie Chan film pretty much none of those come off here. Fortunately we do have a very strong final twenty minutes and I credit any roundly positive review with only having remembered this part of the film. It is here that finally we get a decent fight scene and it turns out to be a really good one where everything fires on all cylinders. Firstly it is shot really well and I mention that first because of the barn location making it difficult to get a good shot, but here we get good use of angles and long static shots to show that the action was not created in the edit room but on the set. It is also tough and really well choreographed with plenty of impressive and engaging moves all well pulled together. It is literally the reward for making it through the previous 70-odd minutes to get to this sequence.
So Dragon Lord as a total product deserves to be remembered as pretty poor film. The plot is weak, the comedy basic and the total delivery leaves much to be desired. Thanks goodness then for the final fight that does wash the taste out of your mouth by how much fun it all is in a generally excellent final 20 minutes that makes you wonder where this Chan was for the rest of it.