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It is 1917 Yunnan and Liu Jinxi lives a quiet life with his wife Yu and their two young sons Xiaotian and Fangzheng. Liu runs a paper mill and the village prospers. One day, two fugitives arrive demanding money and after a long fight with Liu, end up dead. The bigger one is identified as an especially powerful fighter. Liu becomes a local hero but detective Xu Baijiu, an expert in physiology and pressure points, is puzzled how a seemingly ordinary man like Liu was able to defeat two hardened fugitives...
For more about Dragon and the Dragon Blu-ray release, see Dragon Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 16, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Wei Tang, Kara Hui, Wu Jiang
Director: Peter Chan
» See full cast & crew
Dragon Blu-ray Review
A beast of a movie.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 16, 2013
No one truly has free will.
Dragon makes one heck of a good movie out of some old plot standbys, chiefly the "bad-guy-turned-family-man-cannot-escape-from-his-past" element that's handled remarkably well in what is a beautifully mesmerizing, highly stylish, and fairly violent film about a small Chinese village rocked by the doings of one of its newest residents and the realities that follow him when a zealous detective pieces together the truth about who he is, where he comes from, and what he's done in a rather dark past that he'd prefer to leave behind. Writer Oi Wah Lam (The Warlords) and Director Peter Chan (Perhaps Love) craft a movie that's equal parts smart, stylishly alluring, emotionally troubling, and mentally challenging. It's a rare picture that manages to blend conventional plot elements with fairly novel pieces that accentuate the best things about the old style stories while covering up the fact that, at the core, there's simply not much new going on. Dragon finds that balance in every frame, yielding an oftentimes breathless edge-of-seat picture that brings together intense character drama and plenty of action as told through a very well developed character roster that shapes one of the best films to come out of China in recent years.
The year is 1917. Liu Jinxi (Donnie Yen) lives a quiet, unassuming life in a small Southwestern Chinese paper making village with his wife and children. Their idyllic harmony is one day turned upside down when two thugs enter town and demand money. They are brutal and relentless, and Liu finds himself in a deadly scrap with them. He ultimately earns the upper hand and kills one of them with a severe blow to the head using only his fist as a weapon. The incident brings the arrival of a police inspector named Xu Baijiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a thorough sort who will stop at literally nothing to uncover the truth and prove his deductions right or wrong. Xu himself has lived through a close brush with death and controls his overactive sense of empathy through the art of self acupuncture. Xu is shocked to learn that one of the dead men is none other than a very dangerous wanted criminal. He's more surprised to discover that Liu killed the man with his bare hands. He comes to believe that Liu is not who he says he is, that a man of such physical skill and with such an intimate knowledge of the human body -- and how to terminate life with a single blow -- cannot possibly be a mere paper man from a small village. As Xu digs deeper into Liu's past, he learns a secret that could place himself, Liu, Liu's family, and the entire village in danger at the hands of a ruthless clan of highly skilled warriors.
Dragon transitions from good-to-great thanks largely to the work of Takeshi Kaneshiro as Xu, the learned police detective who unravels the meat of the case. Takeshi Kaneshiro absolutely lives his part, capturing the essence of an old throwback noir detective but adding his own flavor, defining the character not just by the way he so naturally wears the hat and glasses but through his detailed mannerisms, the exactness of his procedure, and his transition to reluctant hero. His backstory is simple but satisfying and ultimately integral to the plot, just as one expects it to be when it's introduced fairly early in the film. There's something cool, yet sort of tragically so, about the character, a dichotomy in his involvement in the case that begins professionally but morphs into something deeper and more involved the further he digs towards the truth. His is an excellent performance of a very well-written character that would be the envy of any of the generic alphabet soup American crime scene procedurals that are dwarfed by the style and story of Dragon. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, with Donnie Yen dominating the lead part and Jimmy Wang offering an imposing and detailed performance as "The Master."
Dragon proves a success well beyond its fine character roster and supporting performances. The picture cobbles together a number of styles and elements and molds them into a singularly cohesive achievement. The picture works in various plot twists and character revelations that range from intimate to heartbreaking, from lightly mischievous to terribly dark and frightening. It's a film that traverses the entire range of emotions and incorporates a number of styles -- from noir detective influences to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-lite action styles. It all blends together remarkably well; there's a captivating flow to the entire experience, one that has the audience wanting to sort out the truth but in some ways and at the same time afraid to dig that deeply. It's a film seen through the eyes of the detective protagonist more so than the family man with a haunted past, which opens up an outside perspective and allows all of the information to unravel in time rather than all at once, in clumps, or only at the end. The dramatic posturing is equaled by some incredible photography that's involved but not at the expense of narrative structure and cohesion. Director Peter Chan pulls the audience deep inside the world with his camera, but never so far as to overwhelm or in any way obscure the story. His slow-motion action scenes are incredible, particularly when they're part of Xu's investigative recreations that insert him into the action after the fact. The film is externally defined by some gorgeous environments and wardrobe choices that help bring the entire tale to unmistakably rich life.
Dragon Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dragon's high definition presentation suffers through occasionally purply, overly bright black levels but otherwise proves largely handsome and cinematic. Anchor Bay's transfer provides consistent, even details that bring the small Chinese town to vivid life. Whether the smallest nuanced accents on clothes or bedsheets or the heavier, more readily evident textures of stone work, bricks, tree trunks, and grasses, viewers will appreciate the clarity and consistency on display in nearly every frame. Facial textures, too, are nicely complex and full of life, be they fresh or bloody, sweaty, and battle-weary. Colors are quite splendid, particularly under bright outdoor conditions where brilliant greens truly sparkle. Much of the rest of the palette favors a slightly darker, earthier sort of tone, but at every opportunity all hues are presented with a lifelike shading. The image suffers from no perceptible banding, blockiness, or edge haloing. Aside from the spoiled black levels, this is very good, sometimes stunning high definition presentation from Anchor Bay.
Dragon Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dragon features a rich and satisfying Chinese original language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack (optional English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are included). At film's open, listeners are presented with a smooth, nicely spaced, and well-defined sound presentation. Music gently immerses the listener, playing with seamless front-side spacing and just the right bit of surround information. Such qualities remain through the rest of the film. The track also provides a good, balanced general environmental atmosphere. Buzzing flies, playing children in the background, and casual woodland/jungle ambiance is presented with a natural seamlessness around the stage. There's a fairly good, but not quite full, low end presence to raging waters heard midway through the film, and soon thereafter bass grows substantially to the point that it nearly hurts the ears at reference levels. Otherwise, most action-oriented effects come through robustly, such that listeners find themselves in the midst of the action. Dialogue is generally clearly presented, but there's a slight shallowness to the spoken word in a few scenes. Nevertheless, and a despite a few flaws and annoyances, this rates highly as a strong, well-rounded lossless soundtrack.
Dragon Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dragon contains three extras, two of which branch out to reveal multiple pieces.
Dragon Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dragon is easily one of the best movies to come out of the Eastern hemisphere in the past few years. It puts some new twists on an old style but does so in seamless, accessible fashion. It's fun and dark both, lightly humorous at times but also terribly violent at others. It crafts a very good story populated by several strongly developed characters, accentuated by fantastic photography, great acting, and superb art direction. It's a complete movie and one that's not to be missed. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray is a little short in extras but does deliver solid video and audio. Highly recommended.
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Dragon Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Dragon Blu-ray - February 26, 2013
Anchor Bay Entertainment and RADiUS-TWC have officially announced the Blu-ray release of director Peter Ho-Sun Chan's Dragon, which stars Donnie Yen (Ip Man), Takeshi Kaneshiro (Red Cliff) and Wei Tang (Lust, Caution). The Chinese action drama streets on April ...
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