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Dragon Tiger Gate (HK 2006)

Director : Wilson Yip
Producer : Raymond Wong Pak Ming
Production Company : Mandarin Films Ltd
Cast : Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue

‘Dragon Tiger Gate’ is the creation of popular animator and comic writer Tony Wong Yuk-Long. The story follows the fate of ‘Tiger Dragon Gate’, a martial arts sect founded by Tiger Wong, Dragon Wong and Turbo Shek – three youths who passionately believe in justice and truth. The three heroes unknowingly take possession of a gold plaque that holds staff of power of one of the largest Asian criminal organisation – Lousha Gate. They become the target of this wicked power and ignite a battle between good and evil.

by Jin Hien Lau

Dragon Tiger Gate was hyped up by its producers to be the equivalent of Asia’s answer to the best of Hollywood’s comic movies the likes of Raimi’s Spiderman or Singer’s X-Men. The best I can say of this film is that it’s only about the equivalent of Elektra with better actions.

What can i say, after personally watching nothing but good quality HK films for the past year both classic and new, this seemed extremely disappointing coming from the team of SPL.

Here’s the low-down. I’ll start off with what kept me on my seat at the cinema. So after making what a lot would consider to be Hong Kong’s most hard hitting actioner for the past half decade. The Team that brought us Sha Po Lang has come together once again for DTG. Undoubtedly, action is pretty high on the agenda. And I have to say I was impressed. The setting and the way it was shot was highly imaginative. But the choreography might be a tad below SPL’s standards.

What impresses me is how it was shot and presented. For instance, there’s a scene, that’s like a mix of SPL, Kill Bill’s house of Blue Leaf and Oldboy’s corridor fight all rolled into one. And to top it off, its done in a fecking overhead craneshot with minimal CGI. Reminiscent of the wow factor Johnny To provided in Breaking News, this scene alone is worth the DVD purchase. Nic Tse and Shawn Yu both showed great physical performances for the action scenes. Especially Nic Tse. you ‘re really convinced that he’s a kicker in this. a real feat for non martial arts trained actors to accomplish.

Though judging this film purely by its actions scenes might work for some. It did not work for this reviewer. Let me state first that it is just my personal opinion that I absolutely can not stomach those mainstream teen poppy romantic comedies. The least presence in a film I’m watching could turn me off. Googly eyed woman that grins like a half tranquillized monkey passing itself as a bubbly and cheery cute character is a BIG NO NO for me, and there is one in this. There is basically elements of those “looky us we’re so cute pretending we’re awkward and in love ” romantic craps in there. (kinda very brief, but still. personal preference dictates that it dropped the movie quite a few notches)

The movie is also bogged down by too many overly melancholy flash backs that instead of telling us the heroes motives and backstory, only serves to make us feel like they’re a bunch of fag-haired homos. It doesn’t suit the whole tone of the film at all, trying to be some sort of semi “lost in time” with untalented and charmless kids spouting cringe infested “messages” . This did not pass as character development to me.

The villains are handled in the most utterly atrocious way possible. You have this pretty cool looking kabuki ninja guy called Shibumi. and he practically just sits there saying ” lets go kill Donnie and Nic”. really, that is seriously ALL he’s there for. absolutely ZERO character to him. he just sits somewhere and everyone would just say, “wow, that dude Shibumi. don’t piss him off”. we don’t know why he’s such a bad ass, he’s just there, coming out now and then to kill someone’s sifu so the hero can avenge him later. There’s also 2 random Bebop and rocksteady type characters who just jumps out of nowhere to do their bad guy thing.

Ultimately, the film is bogged down significantly trying to impress the 13 year old school girls. With overly melancholy kiddy cute flash backs that goes for 20 minutes and random puppy eyed exchanges between Nic Tse and Tong Jie. The movie started really well with an awesome animated comic book sequence setting up the backstory. We are told Dragon Tiger Gate is sort of a Robin Hood dojo that helps out the poor of the streets, but after that scene, we are treated to nothing, absolutely nothing of what that place and name means, we do not see how Nic Tse being the son of the creator of DTG go around his duties as a super hero or his mental state being a super martial arts dude except for ONE brief scene. For the rest of the time, he’s just hanging around his friends spouting lines that’s tailor made to get 13 yr old Asian school girls to scream ” waaaaa, kawaiiii” but makes me cringe so much i look like popeye now.

Yeah, so in the end i feel it is a HUGELY wasted potential that was destroyed by it trying too hard to please the wrong kind of audience. Well, maybe just me. This movie is racking in moolah like its autumn at Hyde Park in Asia. In that sense perhaps it succeeded as a commercial movie. But what It failed was being an engaging movie. Recommended if you
could stomach films like Twin’s Effects or House of Fury.

Plot : 2/5
Acting : 3/5
Entertainment : 4/5
Overall : 3/5

Notable Scenes
- The Chinese & Japanese restaurant fights
- Donnie Yen looking too old for his role
- Lots of split screens during a scene at a pagoda. LOTS

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Dragon Tiger Gate

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