Hung Hei Kwun: Siu Lam ng zou [Legend Of The Red Dragon, The] (1994)

(On DVD, January 2004) If nothing else, martial arts fans should watch this film for the incredible pre-opening credit action sequence, a deeply impressive duel involving spears and burning logs waved around like sticks. Great stuff, especially given that it combines the film’s two biggest strengths: a crew that knows what it’s doing when it comes to kung-fu and fantastic images that makes this such a beautiful film to watch. Many of the subsequent scenes are quite good, but few of them attain the impact of the crazy opening sequence. It’s not such a beautiful film when it comes to the dialogue, though: As with many Asian films, the emotional registers of the film keep switching abruptly, the acting is a lot less subtle than Western movies and the dialogue is often of the on-the-nose variety with scarce place for nuances. Jet Li’s performance is dubbed in a fashion that brings to mind the worst William Shatner imper!son!nations!, though it’s unclear as to whether the flaw lies in the performance or the dub. Alas, the bare-bones DVD only features an English dub, not the original audio track. Very disappointing, even though the rest of the transfer is flawless. Of interest to martial arts fans, mostly.

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