Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dragon's Forever

While Jackie Chan continues his long slow slide from the man who made The Legend Of Drunken Master and Police Story to the man who made Rush Hour 3, The Spy Next Door and The Karate Kid (BUT HE’S PRACTICING KUNG FU!!!!) its nice once to revisit his older films and remember that there was once a time when a new Jackie Chan movie was a very good thing.

Dragon’s Forever is a show case for Chan at his best, acting as a perfect display for his brand of unfakeable athleticism that never fails to get the jaw dropping. While in some of the lesser Chan film’s, his broad sense of humor can undercut the intensity of his stunts and performances, Dragon’s Forever finds the perfect balance of intensity and levity. The role, though still firmly a good guy, is a bit less noble then the average Jackie Chan character and aside from a few scenes with Hung, never turns into a clown the way Chan is want to do. He’s a full fledged badass in this, and it’s a role that’s satisfying to watch him play.

Directed by veteran Sammo Hung, whose skills in front of the camera (He plays a role here as the “fatty” comic relief) are of much use to him behind it. Hung simply put knows how to shoot action, because he knows how the mechanics of an action scene work inside and out. He puts together some stunning sequences for Dragon’s Forever. Simply some of the best displays Chan ever had for his artistry. Including a climactic fight scene that goes on for nearly half an hour, and features stunts off handedly performed that would serve as the centerpiece of lesser action movies. It rivals even the legendary battle that capped Drunk Master II, for sheer “I can’t believe the human body is capable of such abuse” disbelief.

The film’s story is perfunctory even by Kung Fu standards, involving a battle between a fish farm and a textile mill that’s really a front for a narcotic smuggling triad. There’s a lot of “wacky” highjinks and romantic interludes, where the apathy is almost audible. But there’s also a refreshing lack of homogenization. Say what you will about Dragon’s Forever, and a lot can be said about a film in which Jackie Chan “meets cute” with a girl while defending her rapist in court (This is what I believe is referred to as “Not Cool”).

but it’s a film that a startling specific product of its time and place. Even its tastelessness is appealing because something that can’t be replicated in our increasingly globablized world. Nowadays a Hong Kong Filmmaker would know that there is no way that would play in the American market.

Now yes on the simple level treating rape as somewhat more serious then jay walking, this is perhaps not such a bad thing. But its this same mode of thinking which turns someone who once tore through the cinema, with a grace and joy that seemed nearly supernatural, into a blandly wholesome family entertainer.

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