DRAGON FIGHT (1989) short review


Jet Li and Stephen Chow : this is a pairing that throughout the nineties, the noughties and up to this day would spell box-office gold. But in 1989 it was just a few years too early. Jet Li had not yet settled into superstardom with Once Upon A Time In China, and Stephen Chow had not yet established his insanely successful brand of comedy, and was actually still more of a dramatic supporting actor. Whatever the stage of their career they were in, they certainly deserved something better than Billy Tang’s Dragon Fight, a thoroughly mundane action film, in which Jet Li and Dick Wei are part of a Wushu troupe touring the United States, the former left stranded in San Francisco when he misses his flight home for trying to find the latter, who’s decided to stay in America and work his way up the local mafia. Stephen Chow comes in as a Chinese immigrant who helps Jet Li out, but gets himself into trouble with the very same mafia Dick Wei now works for. After a vaguely comedic, uninteresting first part, things get unexepectedly dark and action kicks in thanks to silly plot turns (one of those turns involves someone confusing washing powder and cocaine). Choreographed by Dick Wei himself, it’s fierce and enjoyably realistic, a style Jet Li would only scarcely revisit, though most of the time with scintillating results. Still, here it’s too little too late, and the film also suffers from some of the worst ‘gweilo’ acting (and dubbing) you’ll ever see. **

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