Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

After watching Donnie Yen’s fight choreography and Wilson Yip’s direction in the gritty, slick, loud and hugely entertaining ‘Kill Zone’, knowing that their next feature ‘Dragon Tiger Gate’ was making its way across the Pacific brought a smile to my face. Used to be the best movies coming out of Asia started and ended in Hong Kong. Not so much anymore as the best movies coming out Asia, or anywhere in my opinion at least, are coming out South Korea. ‘Kill Zone’ was a refreshing tough action throwback to the HK action films of the eighties, though it did manage to squeeze the ever present Chinese pop star in the mix, but still a very entertaining flick. ‘Dragon Tiger Gate? Well… it is entertaining, that much I’ll say for it.

Based on a popular series of comics by Yuc Long Wong, ‘Dragon Tiger Gate’ tells the tale of martial arts virtuosos Tiger Wong (Nicholas Tse) and his older brother wayward brother Dragon Wong (Donnie Yen). Both, as boys, were members of the martial arts school ‘The Gate’ run by their uncle Jianglong (Wah Yeun) when tragedy split the boys apart with Tiger staying at The Gate to be raised by his uncle, and Dragon leaving to be raised by benevolent mobster Ma Kun (Kuan Ti Chen). Our first virtuoso fighting sequence begins with Tiger having lunch which his friends and classmates at a local eatery when some thugs begin roughing up a family who hasn’t paid their ‘protection’ fees. Tiger, with the wind blowing his hair, proceeds to beat the hell out of the thugs, as well as Ma Kun’s men as Ma Kun was there dealing with an associate of the Lousha gang in reference to some gold plaque that plays some part in this whole story. As Tiger rips through these thugs, out of the blue, with the wind blowing in his hair, comes Dragon to protect his adopted father Ma Kun just in case Tiger gets any ideas. Ma Kun puts the kibosh on the battle as he does not wish to see the brothers do battle.

We are then treated to some melodrama which I barely remember even I just saw it six hours ago. This leads to another big battle in another restaurant with more hair flying in the wind as Dragon has to retrieve this plaque from one of Tiger’s friends who picked it up during the melee at the previous restaurant. More spectacular fighting pyrotechnics ensue which also includes the introduction of Turbo (Shawn Yue), the scar-faced nunchuking good guy who just want to learn to get better.

More melodrama follows as we get to see Dragon and Tiger as children, Tiger meets and falls for Ma Kun’s daughter and Dragon’s adopted sister Xiaoling (Angela Dong), Dragon has his personal issues with his crazy hot wanna be girlfriend Rosa (Xiao Ran Li) who loves him to death but also works for the enemy in this flick, the masked Shubumi (Yu Kang). There will be more melodrama, a master will die, sacrifices will have to be made, and deaths must be avenged in the most ass kicking fashion.

First allow me to tell you that I have almost no idea what this movie was about. It would appear to me that Wilson Yip and his screenwriters relied a LOT on the viewer having some prior knowledge of the ‘Dragon Tiger Gate’ universe through the comics. I’ve never heard of the comics so obviously I have no prior knowledge and as such a lot of this flick left me in the dark. Questions I might ask consist of what is this plaque everybody wants and what does it represent? Who in the world is this Shubumi character and what purpose does he serve? I see he’s a bad guy, but is he a mobster, a ghost, a spirit? Or just some dude who likes a good scrap. What? It would appear that Dragon and Tiger’s father is somebody of note, but other than a name, little is said about the seed dropper. Who exactly is Rosa the hot chick? Is she a kung fu artist or something and how exactly did she start working for Shubumi? Why do the main characters in this flick have hair that casually falls over one eye? Is it hard to see out of the hair covered eye? How did they get the wind to consistently blow their hair around indoors? I wonder.

But despite the nonsensical and sparse story line, the only reason anybody is probably watching this movie in the first place is for the action and Donnie Yen comes through yet again crafting some truly breathtaking fight scenes. With a nice combination of wires, CGI, skill and acrobatics the fight sequences are more than worth the price of admission. Perhaps fight choreographer Yen might want to advise actor / martial artist Yen to chill a bit on those Michael Jackson profile poses after every strike but there was enough high kicking, wall jumping, move calling out (Electric Drill Bit KICK!), debris smashing and power punching for two movies.

‘Dragon Tiger Gate’ is certainly an exercise of style over substance as director Yip paints a lot of bright and colorful highly stylized pictures amidst the spectacular fight scenes. When the movie isn’t kicking somebody’s ass it drags to a complete melodramatic stop to be sure, but these lulls are only temporary and it’s back to some wire-fu '18 Slaying DRAGON PALMS' destruction. And I think I speak for all of us when I say that every body has a place in their hearts for 18 slaying Dragon Palms.

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