ENTER THE FAT DRAGON (2020) review

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Not a remake of Sammo Hung’s 1978 action comedy despite sharing a title and rotund lead with it, Kenji Tanigaki’s Enter the Fat Dragon follows Fallon Zhu (Donnie Yen), a well-meaning but slightly unhinged cop who becomes overweight after suffering a break-up from his longtime girlfriend, TV actress Chloe (Niki Chow), and a demotion to the archive room of his precinct. He jumps at the opportunity to get back to the field with a mission to escort a Japanese suspect back to Tokyo, where Chloe is coincidentally staying at the same time, hoping to expand her career to the Japanese market. But when the suspect is murdered by none other than the shady businessman (Go Hayama) sponsoring Chloe’s Japanese experience, and the inspector in charge (Takenaka Naoto) proves to be corrupt, Fallon teams up with a former undercover cop turned restaurant owner (Wong Jing) to bring them to justice.

The second Chinese action comedy in two years to feature a fat cop in Tokyo, after Bao Bei’er’s Fat Buddies, Kenji Tanigaki’s film takes a different approach: while Bao’s film – though far from mean-spirited – made constant, often crass jokes at the expense of obese people, Enter the Fat Dragon is much closer in spirit to Sammo Hung’s films, in which fatness mostly means added joviality and is no impediment to fighting prowess. It indeed manages a nice middle of the road, avoiding both fat-shaming and nonsensical politically correctness. The plot is rather rote, reminiscent of many a quickly-assembled Wong Jing-produced comedy, yet this is no cheapie: production values are excellent (except some shoddy CGI, of course), and action is expectedly first-rate. From a uproarious scuffle inside a speeding van, to the finale atop the Tokyo Tower, pitting Donnie Yen against Go Hayama in a fine mix of brutality and hilarity, with a lot of fighting on the roofs of Tokyo (and a fish market) in the middle, it’s mostly mid-level by Donnie Yen and his team’s lofty standards, but top-level action by almost any other standard.

This is a Hong Kong comedy, and it’s produced by Wong Jing, so a lot of jokes are thrown at the wall and not all of them stick, but the success rate is rather high and despite the brutality, there an overarching sweetness that’s hard to resist. Donnie Yen himself is a blast: he’s done comedy before, most notably as a has-been rock star in All’s Well, Ends Well 2012, but never as a lead – at least not since Drunken Tai Chi and Mismatched Couples, his first two films. But he’s a natural, bringing warmth, goofiness and excellent comic timing to his role, bouncing endearingly off an excellent supporting cast: Wong Jing is unexpectedly sweet, Niki Chow charmingly silly and heartfelt, and Japanese veteran Takenaka Naoto is hilarious as a flatulent corrupt cop who keeps changing toupees. And while it’s a shame Sammo Hung couldn’t at least cameo, there’s a very amusing parody of the legendary alley fight between Yen and Wu Jing (here replaced with Philip Ng) in SPL.

Long Story Short: The plot is trite and good taste is rarely glimpsed, but Enter the Fat Dragon is often hilarious, packed with excellent fights and unexpectedly sweet. ***1/2

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