4 October 2005 | SamuraiNixon
An interesting change for Jackie and Sammo
After several "Lucky Stars" films, Sammo Hung wanted to direct Jackie Chan in a serious movie. Jackie believed (rightly so) that the Hong Kong audience would have trouble accepting him in a non-action role. Sammo was insistent and Jackie acquiesced. With a screenplay coauthored by Barry Wong and Sammo Hung they ventured forth to create Heart of Dragon (aka First Mission). This film would be a box office disappointment though he soon would create one of his best films Police Story.
Jackie stars as a CID officer (formally from SWAT) who takes care of his mentally-challenged 29 year old brother Danny. Danny is an affable and naive grown-up who is known as Do Do by his child friends. He is so credulous that even his kid companions use him for nefarious reasons such as getting into a restaurant or passing off as a parent. He is a constant drain on his brother Jackie who always has to take care of him. Jackie is also split between wanting to make his girlfriend Jenny (Emily Chu who was also in the first two A Better Tomorrow films) happy and his dream of becoming a merchant marine. Danny is wonderfully played by Hung who is not afraid to sacrifice his dignity and his body for this role such as the scene when Danny is looking for a job to be more self supporting is taken advantage of by a restaurant owner (Wu Ma who also helped produce this film) who persuades him to act like a bull, a dog and a snake. Chan's acting is good with occasional forays into the melodramatic.
Heart of Dragon is an enjoyable but fragmented and uneven film. It attempts to be a drama, but after half the picture is over it wants to be action movie. I feel that they did not believe they could create a full serious picture. The switch in tone of the film is distracting and hurts the overall feel of the picture. Yet the ending choreographed by Yuen Biao, though somewhat stereotypical of action film endings, has one of the most exciting sequences Jackie and Sammo has ever done. So my feelings are mixed by this change. Golden Harvest also felt that the audience would not believe a Sammo and Jackie film could sustain a dramatic pace and ordered two additional fighting scenes for the Japanese market. These scenes can be found as deleted scenes on the Fortune Star release.
You could review this film as two separate films. The drama was good except for periodical bouts of overacting and melodramatic scenes (though Sammo's character seems quite believable.) The action part of the film was also good (not counting the opening scene which was totally unbelievable with Mr. Eyebrows one of my favorite actors Lam Ching Ying) but catered to stereotypical scripting. For example Do Do plays cops and robbers with his kid friends and accidentally scares a gangster into giving up a bag of jewelry that belongs to local Triad member the cigar chomping Mr Kin (James Tien.) Mr Kin then, eventually, kidnaps Do Do to get the eventual climax between CID and Mr Kin and his men.
As a complete concept, the film does not work as well as the sum of the parts. The film also has the problem of transitioning from action to drama to action then back to drama again. Then there is the problem with the horrible "electronic" music playing in the background. But many of the parts are quite excellent. People who are expecting a "Jackie Chan" film will be disappointed with the exception of the deleted scenes and the excellent ending. I was disappointed because I saw that they could have made a more compelling drama or at least a more fluid piece. However, there is much to enjoy with the film, as if I had not said it enough, especially the ending.. Notes: other character actors in the film are Fung Hark On (portraying another slimy character), Yuen Wah and Corey Yuen (both who grew up with Jackie Chan, Sammo and Yuen Biao as part of the Seven Little Fortunes.)