Dragon Tiger Gate (龍虎門) Made in: Hong Kong Language: Cantonese Director: Wilson Yip Starring: Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue, Jie Dong, Yu Kang, Li Xiao Ran, Yuen Wah, Chen Kuan Tai Year: 2006
Synopsis: Based on the comic book by Wong Yuk-Long back in the 1970s, Dragon Tiger Gate tells the story of Dragon (Donnie Yen) and his younger brother Tiger (Nicholas Tse). As children, both were raised in a kung fu school started by their Uncle Wong Jianglong (Yuen Wah) and late father. However, Dragon leaves after their parents divorce and the two boys grow up separated.
Tiger becomes the best student at the Dragon Tiger Gate kung fu school, while Dragon joins the Lousha Gang led by crime boss Ma Kun (Chen Kuan Tai). Dragon is Ma Kun's best bodyguard, and the two form a father-son bond.
By chance, Tiger and Dragon cross paths during a brawl in a Chinese restaurant, and then once again at Japanese restaurant (don't people fight in bars any more?). When Tiger learns the whereabouts of his long lost brother, he seeks to reconcile with him.
But things get complicated when Ma Kun decides to leave the criminal underworld, and becomes marked for death by Shibumi (Yu Kang), the mysterious uber-boss of the Lousha Gang.
While all this is going on, Tiger befriends a talented but cocky nunchuka expert named Turbo Shek (Shawn Yue), who yearns to join the Dragon Tiger Gate school. And of course, love interests get involved too. Dragon's life is complicated by is lover Rosa (Li Xiao Ran), who happens to be Shibumi's emissary. And Ma Kun's daughter Xiaoling (Jie Dong) finds that she and Tiger keep meeting, by destiny perhaps.
Anyway, as with all Hong Kong martial arts movies, it all culminates in a huge fight at the end as Tiger, Turbo, and Dragon team up to take on the bad guy.
The Good: Dragon Tiger Gate is highly entertaining when the action gets going. The fight sequences are slick and it's great to see kung fu legend Donnie Yen in top form again. Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue also hold their own as action heroes, and all three are very charismatic protagonists.
Visually, the movie is very stylized. Many Hong Kong action movies are known for incredibly cheesy special effects, but the rise of digital technology has dramatically curbed that issue here. In many scenes, the effects are pretty darn cool even if they're not 100% perfect. There's lots of creative camera work too, and the soundtrack isn't half bad either.
The movie never takes itself too seriously, and it's presented with a lot of energy and personality. For me, I got a kick out of Tiger's t-shirt. It's red with a yellow star in the middle, which made me think of Carl's Jr. Oh, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Dragon Tiger Gate contains the world's largest punching bag.
The Bad: It's awfully melodramatic at times, and it tends to slow down too much between action scenes. On more than one occasion, you'll find yourself impatiently shifting in your seat in anticipation of the next fight.
The movie makes a genuine effort to be emotional, but given the subject matter, we didn't come here expecting to see thespians.
And speaking of Donnie Yen, he's a great martial artist, but to put it mildly, he has the emotional range of an oyster. He's always got this intense look on his face, which is great when he's kicking a bad-guy through a wall...but not so great when he's pondering the meaning of love, life, and other fluffy stuff.
Who would like this movie: You don't necessarily have to be an aficionado of foreign films to like this movie. It's pretty much geared towards fans of martial arts movies and action flicks in general.
Although I'm not familiar at all with the comic book, the movie does seem to get a little side-tracked while attempting to cover a lot of the complexities and backstory from the printed version.
As a movie, Dragon Tiger Gate isn't all that original in terms of its plot. It's slow in places but in the end, the action sequences make it a fun and respectable piece of entertainment.