16 March 2008 | Guardia
A Pyramid, A Golden Egg, Poetry, & Antiques.
"Dragonlord" sees Chan returning to his role of "Dragon" from "The Young Master". Not much has carried over from the first film though. "Tiger", his older brother, is nowhere to be seen; neither is the Marshall, his daughter or his son played superbly by Yuen Biao in the original film. Dragon does have the same master though - presumably all the other students have moved on to other things. (Dragon's laziness at training is portrayed heavily in this film, so maybe he's still studying!)
Originally titled "Young Master In Love", this film sees Dragon (for the first sixty minutes at least) pursuing a villager girl in various idiotic and slapstick ways. His rival for her affection is his friend (inappropriately named "Cowboy") played comically by the longtime Chan Stunt-team member Mars. We see various scenes where their silly schemes backfire. It is one of these scenes that we (thankfully) find "Dragon" in over his head.
This film is notorious in that it failed expectations at the box office. That said, I'm sure the expectations were pretty high, and I feel that this film has never had a fair judgment based on it's own merits. But even when I try to do this, I still feel that there is a problem with the film. It seems quite unfocused, sometimes rushed, and I think the action is too sporadic and not as brilliant as Chan's other work from this period.
The thing that really saves the film is the ending sequence. As in "The Young Master", there is a fantastic final reel that it full of incredibly exhausting action - you really feel every blow. And again, Chan goes up against the same rival from "The Young Master" (is it the same character?), and the timing and energy here is brilliant. Chan's style of using every last bit of his environment to help defeat his opponent - not just relying on pure physical ability - is as apparent here as anywhere else. The barn they fight in is full of clever little prop gags and improvisations. This is an absolute highlight of the film and one of Chan's incredible career.
It's not necessary to see the prequel before seeing "Dragonlord", in fact, it might even raise more questions than what it hopes to answer. But it must be said that the original film is the superior film, and "Dragonlord", with it's focus on girl-chasing and team-sports does seem baffling. Luckily, the few fight scenes it offers (plus a fantastic shuttle-cock scene) push it over the line as a must-see film in this genre.