Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
The Stars: Michael Chuah, Fiona Xie, Henry Thia, Wang Xiao Chen
The Story: The Nam Gang has had control of a village through the use of force and intimidation for a long time. Villagers like Uncle Chen (played by Henry Thia) have protection money extorted from them constantly. Jie, Chen’s nephew, is sent over to Chen’s Teochew Porridge Stall to help out. Once there however, Jie uses his remarkable mad kung fu skills to fight back against the gang and their oppression. His actions inevitably draw the wrath of the triad upon the village, against much of the villagers’ wishes. To further complicate things, Chen’s daughter Lily (played by Fiona Xie), is on the side of the Nam Gang.
The Buzz: Produced by the same man who brought us Donnie Yen’s ass-kicking Ip Man 2, Fist of Dragon seems to be a vastly different kind of product compared to the slapstick comedies or art house films that local moviegoers are used to being served with.
InSing.com Says: The movie’s plot is very simple which actually isn’t a bad thing at all. It allows the viewer to focus on the action and sure enough, the action does deliver. Heck, even the “multiple punches into the chest with loud thuds” thing from the Ip Man series are in here. The final fight where Li fights in a warehouse in particular is a highlight with excellent choreography and use of props on the set.
How the performances in this film manage to topple over a straightforward storyline though is puzzling. Most of the performances here are either really stiff and unnatural or just way over the top. Only the stars we’ve listed above deliver a mostly balanced performance and ground this film from becoming a cheesefest. Yes, even Fiona Xie’s performance (despite not being a very convincing Ah Lian) is not deemed as overacting when compared to her co-stars. Ming, the younger brother of triad boss Nam in particular, suffers as a result of over the top acting. The actor who plays him delivers a mix of guyliner and juvenile antics has him looking less like a leader of men in a triad gang and more like the Joker-meets-Garth from Wayne’s World, albeit with less fatalities.
Perhaps because of a low budget, the production suffers a lot in many other aspects. A particular fight scene in the laboratory was very poorly lighted, resulting in a fight between three shadows. Some scenes that shouldn’t have been in the cut are in, like when a triad extra delivered his line at least two seconds late… leading to confused laughter from the audience. A side plot that features the triad being involved in drug making actually shows us how the drugs are being researched and made; with test tubes and pipettes. Yes, we understand it’s a small production but c’mon, would a little presentation hurt?
All in all, Fist of Dragon delivers on what it set out to do—a no nonsense action film. But it could have been so much more. Plot wise, it’s almost like there’s nothing motivating what the characters do. There’s no reason why things happen, they just happen. Why do they show us Jie fighting a crazed man at his house in China before he comes over? To demonstrate his fighting prowess? Why is there a motif of a broken in half piece of Jade that is never fully explained to us? Why is an there not a modicum of Police presence in the entire film? Why why why? So many questions.
In terms of action, Singaporean action choreography has taken a giant leap here but in terms of storytelling, we may have not progressed at all. Watch this if you really love your kung fu movies and can tolerate the fluffy storytelling.