Netflix UK film review: Dragon
Ivan Radford | On 27, Aug 2013
Director: Peter Chan
Cast: Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro
Watch Dragon online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent)
As the old saying goes, never trust a man who works in a paper mill. Especially if they’re played by Donnie Yen. It’s definitely true in the case of Liu Jin-xi, a mild-mannered husband who finds his workplace under attack from a group of bandits – and unwittingly kills them all with his own clumsy two hands.
Enter detective Xu Bai-ju (Kaneshiro), who believes there’s more to Liu than meets the A4 size chart. All acupuncture and glasses, he digs around the crime scene like a hipster psychic, prompting wild flashbacks, reverse slo-mo and all kinds of visual trickery. It’s like watching A History of Violence reimagined as an episode of CSI: Hong Kong.
For most of the runtime, the result is a curious, if uneven, batch of ideas, the themes of redemption and reinventing oneself providing an interesting contrast to the fight scenes. The balance rests on Donnie Yen’s quiet presence; convincing both as a humble craftsman and, in Xu’s eyes, a devastatingly violent murderer, Yen leaps around the set with a striking speed. The script may not quite manage the same agility, but when the action looks this good, does it matter?
Building up to a fantastically intimate family showdown, Peter Chan’s flick is an epic on a small scale. Take either half on their own and it’s a slight creation, but beneath the muddled surface lies a cracking lead performance, a staggering piece of choreography, ad the most visually unique take on wu xia since Zhang YImou’s Hero – a bold reminder that you should never judge something by its appearance. Especially if it’s in a paper mill.
Dragon is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.