Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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Chasing the Dragon
I swear that Andy Lau is the hardest working actor in Asia. Most actors put in 2 movies a year, MAYBE 3 if they’re part of a small cameo for something else. But Andy pumped out an incredible SIX movies these last 12 months alone (I’ve reviewed at least 3 of them in the last couple of months), and I was surprised in the least to see his face and name plastered all over Chasing the Dragon. I guess it hearkens back to a time when actors were expected to constantly be working, rather than making a few big budget blockbusters and doing side stuff for the rest of the year (ala modern Hollywood). I won’t ever complain about that though, as I really enjoy Andy’s acting style and he is almost always the best part of any movie he’s in. Not to mention the fact that he’s in his 50s and still pulling off highly physical stunts and looking better than guys 10 years his junior.
I was actually surprised that Chasing the Dragon got made in China. We’re at a time when China is incredibly brutal to drug dealers, and they have had a zero tolerance policy for dope for many years, but they decided to greenlight a film about their version of Pablo Escobar, and a dirty cop who made over $500 million in mob kickbacks who make it out alive by the end of the film? I guess it has something to do with the time period and looking at it through a historical lens, but it is strange considering how jingoistic and faux patriotic most mainland Chinese movies are these days.
As I said, Chasing the Dragon is the partially fictionalized tale of Ng Sik-ho, who was the Chinese equivalent of Pabloc Escobar during the 1960s. Renamed Crippled Ho (Donnie Yen), we get to see the young version of the soon to be drug lord coming over to Hong Kong from the mainland, looking to start a new life for himself and bring his wife and child over later. Thanks to a dirty cop named Rock Lee (Andy Lau) who has been receiving kickbacks from the mob, Ho gets a new lease on life after the British/Hong Kong police force arrest the young man for fighting in the streets. However, it’s these chain of events that spirals out of control. The highly optimistic Ho begins working for a triad boss in exchange for a friend of his’ life. A move which sends the young man higher and higher up the food chain.
Chasing the Dragon is actually one of the few films that Donnie Yen has done recently where he has not played a martial arts master, or a period piece Kung fu flick. Sure, he can fight like a tiger in the film, but its a much more brutal and “street” way of fighting rather than the highly polished martial arts scenes he’s usually known for. The film plays out very much like your typical gangster film, with the young innocent getting drawn into a world beyond his control, and moving up to the point of becoming the master by the end of the film, only to be betrayed in some way, shape or form. In that aspect it both succeeds and fails to make a great movie. Jing Wong and Jason Kwan craft a solidly paced film that plays out in a well done manner, but they also do so in a very predictable way. If you’ve seen one gangster movie about dirty cops and drug lords then you know how this will end. I can’t fault it for following a well worn path, as it is a fun movie to watch, but the limitations of that path also keep it from being MORE than it could have been.
Andy Lau is great as Rock Lee, but Yen is the real standout here. I’ve always wanted to see him play something outside of the cocky cop, or the patient and benign master. This version of the simple man changing into a monster is a fantastic change of pace for the martial artist, and he really gives it his all here. The rest of the crew is your typical backup cast, but this really is Lau and Yen’s film first and foremost.
Not Rated by the MPAA
Chasing the Dragon is a fun (if not slightly predictable) gangster movie that should appeal to fans of both Yen and Lau equally. It’s a very capable crime drama that hearkens back to a day that is very different than the typical period piece dramas that China usually dabbles in. The action is top notch, the styles is very unique among Asian cinema, and the Blu-ray itself is very well done from a technical standpoint. My only complaint would be the obligatory lack of extras that Well GO USA gave for the release, but that isn’t a deal killer. Recommended for a Watch.
Starring: Donnie Yen, Andy Lau, Phillip Keung
Directed by: Jason Kwan, Jing Wong
Written by: Jing Wong
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Cantonese DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DD 2.0, Cantonese DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 128 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 23rd, 2018
Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch