Wuxia is a genre that those of us in the West may be slightly familiar with, but not really.
In its worse form, its those tacky 1970’s kung-fu movies on the late night stations where the character’s lips don’t synch up completely. In its best form, its what the Matrix stole wholesale and passed off as its own, making everyone think it was smart and innovative, when actually the East has been doing this for many more decades. Dragon is one of the latter categories, with suburb action sequences and a deep plot with multiple themes and tensions, Dragon is a success in many levels. It also has the Guinness World Record for the largest billboard promotion, so there’s that going for it too.
Liu Jin-xi (Yen) is a humble village craftsman who comes to the attention of detective Xu Bai-jiu (Kaneshiro) when he single handedly stops a robbery attempt by two bandits. Convinced that he must be hiding some secret through his amazing martial arts skill, Xu begins to pursue Liu to uncover the truth, bringing both of them into conflict with the criminal underworld in the area.
In many ways, what Dragon shares many similarities with is “A History of Violence,” an underrated Cronenberg thriller from some years ago, and in both, the audience is kept on the edge of their seat, not really sure what will happen next, not willing to look away. Unlike that movie, there’s a lot more kickass fighting scenes. It’s hard to say what makes a good fight scene versus a bad one, but it’s one of those things you know when you see them, and this film has a lot of good ones. And all the violence manages to keep an appropriate level of weight, without becoming comical and silly in the process.
Dragon is a fantastic film for any action/martial arts fan, and is in fact a great movie for even just any fan of a good thriller. Don’t let this surprise classic slip away now that its on DVD in our regions.