Updated: Jan 14
Film Review: Enter The Fat Dragon 影評《肥龍過江》(2020)
1. This is not a pure remake of the most important Hong Kong film master Sammo Hung's ''Enter The Fat Dragon'' (1978) which is kung-fu spoof of Bruce Lee's Way of the Dragon (1972). Sammo Hung transferred main plot of Way of the Dragon and limited the stage in Hong Kong. And this Enter The Fat Dragon 《肥龍過江》(2020) revived the international narrative staging of the Way of the Dragon (1972). In fact, both of them just borrowed the title from Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon (1973).
2. Unlike many internet information about this film, the most of Japanese sequences are obviously shot in sound stage with blue/green screens. Behind the scene footage is available at the ending roll.
3. The most positive aspect of this filmmaking is native Japanese sound acting and local voice replacement of Chinese stunts.
Undoubtedly, the core of the mainstream and tradition of Hong Kong filmmaking is obviously martial arts film genre. One of co-directors (other co-directors Niki Chow; Wong Jing) of this film, Hong Kong's only Japanese action choreographer, stuntman Kenji Tanigaki who is a close film partner of the contemporary Hong Kong kung fu star Donnie Yen.
Hong Kong kung fu stars from Jimmy Wang Yu (One-Armed Swordsman; 1967); Bruce Lee (Enter the Dragon; 1973); Jackie Chan (Drunken Master; 1978); Sammo Hung (Enter the Fat Dragon: 1978) and Donnie Yen (Ip Man; 2008) all opposed the frenzied editing that overly dependent on CGI which is contrary to the really skilled athletes who acting on their own stunts for decades. This is the main difference between Hollywood's frenzy editing of CGI kong fu sequences and Hong Kong's traditionally skilled athletes performances.
In film aesthetics, the latter is more real than the former thus it should be praised as a representative of more realistic values of film production. In fact, this is only a matter of the degree of deception in film construction.
Chinese New Year film (賀歲片; 1937-) is the Hong Kong's specific film genre / film marketing term. Many comedies are intended to release during the Chinese lunar new year holidays every year. The first Chinese New Year genre film is Bloom and Prosper (花開富貴；1937).
However, this film was originally planned to release on August 1, 2019. The delay is mostly due to the anti extradition law amendment riots which started from June 12, 2019. The plot involves police and mafia/ yakuza connection thus it could have been seen as a political reflection of the directors of this film. It could have harmed this Hong Kong-Mainland China joint film project.
Fortunately, the production group company Bona Film Group Limited avoided the possible political provocation of being ''pro-beijing''camp. That management's careful decision's successful under the political circumstances in Hong Kong.
Unlike Bruce Lee or Sammo Hung's Way of Dragon narrative, the protagonist Fallon Zhu (The Chinese name 朱福龍 implicates Sammo Hung whose pseudo name was 朱元龍 ; Donnie Yen) is neither a Zatoichi-like stranger nor relatives of any characters involved in the film. However like Bruce Lee's Tang Lung in Way of Dragon who moves to Italy from Hong Kong, Fallon Zhu (Donnie Yen) goes overseas.
In Act 1 of this film which staged in Hong Kong, Fallon Zhu (Donnie Yen) is sent by his superior Shing (Louis Cheung) to Japan for extradition of the fugitive who witnessed yakuza's smuggling of drugs at tsukiji fish market in Tokyo (inciting incident).
At the end of the Act 1, Fallon Zhu hands him over to the Japanese police Mr. Endo (comedian Naoto Takenaka), the chief inspector of Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.
Unexpectedly at the same time his fiancée / actress Chloe (Niki Chow Lai-ki) gets employed by the same yakuza group who wants to eliminate the possible threat to their drug trafficking. The Japanese fugitive is dead later in the Act 2. Act 2 is constructed with the rising conflict between Fallon Zhu and yakuza.
The weakness of the entire plotting is that it heavily relies on occasionalism and street fights. It makes us feel like clockwork in scriptwriting. For example, there are no strong emotional involvement and inevitableness among reunion of Niki Chow Lai-ki's chracter Chloe (可兒) and Fallon Zhu; Fallon Zhu's supporter in Tokyo, owner of Izakaya restaurant, former Hong Kong cop Thor (Wong Jing)'s family. Mr. Endo (comedian Naoto Takenaka)'s corruption with yakuza is additional, too. The cake is separated into pieces equally. Love story? Family story? Kung fu action story? Centre of narrative gravity is obscured.
As the result, the entire story narrative is pretty vague. Mid point is when Thor (Wong Jing) finds cocaines in a fish at Tsukiji fish market. At the end of ACT2, Thor (Wong Jing) gets stabbed and Niki Chow Lai-ki's chracter Chloe (可兒) trapped by yakuza.
ACT3 is simply a final confrontation between Fallon Zhu and yakuza at the top of Tokyo Tower where completely shot in green screen at sound stage. Furthermore, the ending is easily predictable that Fallon Zhu saves his fiancée / actress Chloe from the evil yakuza antagonist. Following the example of Shinjuku Incident (2009), Japan is depicted like a living hell for Chinese and residents under the corrupted cops and yakuza. It is pretty persuasive. Japan has been in 30 years of stagnation and constant decline of real wage rate.
Technically a complemental thing in this film is Japanese sound dubbing that it gives this feature film genuinely native Japanese dialogues among sub-characters, especially on antagonist yakuza stunts. The most of Chinese depicted Japanese characters in Chinese films are fake Japanese like Japanese characters in Hollywood films.
On the contrary, Hong Kong's only Japanese action choreographer, stuntman, co-director of this film Kenji Tanigaki successfully improved the malicious racial treatment which typical in depicting Japanese characters in both Hollywood and Chinese films for decades.
Enter The Fat Dragon 《肥龍過江》(2020) is still the best among all Chinese New Year films of 2020.
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