1982 Directed by Jackie Chan. Starring Jackie Chan, Hseuh Li, Huang Ing Sik.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., Sept. 30, 1994
An important film in the development of Hong Kong action cinema, Dragon Lord is not one of Jackie Chan's best movies, but it is one of his most valuable films in the way it shows his steady development toward realizing both his direction as a filmmaker and the way in which he was rethinking Chinese action genres -- ways that would more or less change the entire Hong Kong film industry. The plot is simple: Chan plays a young, carefree kung fu student infatuated with a pretty local. For the first hour, it's a goofy romantic comedy and light slapstick, accompanied by some thrilling sporting sequences (You haven't seen football or hackey-sak 'til you see Chan play 'em, with over 90 stuntmen injured in the infamous opening sequence alone!), but the whole enterprise seems confused, as if Chan was attempting to do something new with the genre, even if he wasn't quite sure how to accomplish such a mean feat. Luckily, he figures it out during the last 30 minutes, when the movie really comes to life. The story suddenly takes an unexpected turn when Chan uncovers a plot by bandits to steal some rare Chinese antiques (a story Chan recently recycled for Drunken Master II) and decides that, like any good patriot, he must put a stop to them. A suspenseful rooftop encounter with a group of spear-wielding baddies, a playful acrobatic fight in an art gallery, and the show-stopping final brawl all point the way toward the brilliance Chan would achieve with his next film Project “A”. The brutal stuntwork, the clever physical slapstick, the delicate widescreen compositions, and Chan's “underdog” approach to choreographing fight sequences are all fully taking shape by the end of Dragon Lord. True enough, this film is definitely no Project “A” or Police Story; it's just too uneven to compete with the best films in Chan's filmography, but it's a fun picture, and the 20-minute fight finale, considered a classic by most fans and critics of the genre, is worth the price of admission all by itself.