1992 Directed by Raymond Lee. Starring Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung, Donny Yen, Lin Ching Hsia.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 27, 1993
Tsui Hark -- fast becoming the Roger Corman of Hong Kong cinema -- is back with another of his mystical period pieces featuring still more flashing swordplay and billowing tapestries -- and sheeting, multi-hued rainstorms. Set during the Ming Dynasty, the film opens with the rescue of two young orphans from the dreaded Eunuch Courts by swordsmen Chow (Leung) and Yau (Lin Ching Hsia) and their band of underpaid, not-so-merry men. Fleeing from the black-clad eunuchs, the group takes refuge at the Dragon Inn of the title, a ramshackle bed and breakfast apparently nestled firmly in the midst of a desert. As overseen by proprietor Jade King (Cheung), the Inn acts as both a haven for weary travelers and warring factions of thieves (sometimes it's hard to tell the two groups apart, even for Jade King). Before the night is through, though, the Eunuchs make their entrance -- smashing the doors down, as eunuchs are apparently wont to do -- setting the stage for producer Hark's own special brand of aerial acrobatics and bloody swordplay. Both Leung and Cheung are exceptional in their roles. Cheung is especially excellent as the gorgeous, sex-starved Inn-mother who, more or less, just wants to have fun. Imagine Madonna with nothing better to do and you'll get the picture. Above all, though, is director Lee's striking use of the period setting: candles glow and flicker as the actors do battle cloaked in ceremonial garb, their swords flashing amidst the soaking set pieces (for a film set in a desert, it sure rains a lot) and spurting arteries. Also notable is the linear nature of Hark's storyline; unlike so many other Hark films, Dragon Inn remains fairly easy to follow despite the botched subtitles. For a change, everything actually seems to make sense.