Dragon Tiger Gate
(Tai Seng, 2006) D: Wilson Yip, w/ Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
You won’t find too many commentaries that put the knock on the movie, but long-time kung fu movie reviewer Ric Meyers, comics editor and historian Jeff Rovin and a Tai Seng executive whose name, mumbled on introduction, might be Frank Chen, take care to point out Dragon Tiger Gate’s flaws in detail. This leads to some interesting talk about the philosophy of kung fu, the problems of comic book adaptation, the difference between Western and Asian superheroes and more.
The film, based on a 35-years-running Hong Kong comic with an estimated 10 million readers worldwide, tells the story of two brothers separated in childhood who must reunite to battle a fiendish gangster. Tiger (Nicholas Tse) is the good brother, student at the titular kung fu school. Dragon (kung fu superstar Donnie Yen) works for the gangs but is morally conflicted.
Meyers and company think Yen hijacks the movie. It’s true that his character’s prominence plays the comic books false; Tiger is the hero there. But Dragon is the more interesting character. That criticism leads to a great analysis of the climactic fight in terms of drama and structure, an approach we rarely, if ever, hear.
The movie’s highlight occurs earlier, though – a battle in a Japanese restaurant. It’s built around overhead shots (never done in other kung fu movies) and the rectangular compositional devices that director Wilson Yip uses throughout the film, both to evoke the comic and as an ongoing design element.
This is the second collaboration (after S.P.L., known here as Kill Zone) between Yip and Yen. It lacks that film’s raw energy, but it’s still plenty of fun. Yip and Yen are turning into a formidable duo.
Extras Disc one: Commentary. Widescreen. Cantonese, Mandarin, English audio. Chinese, English subtitles. Disc two: Nine making-of docs, star interviews, deleted scenes, Cannes and Hong Kong premiere footage. Widescreen. Chinese audio. English subtitles.