Sunday, 13 July 2008

Legend of the Red Dragon (1994)

- Thanks for washing my underwear. But you tore them.
- I'm sorry.
- That's okay. I made a smaller pair out of them - for you.
- Thanks, dad.
- ...
- Does that mean you're not wearing any underpants?
- I don't mind. It's cooler.

I almost laughed myself to death watching this movie. It's a Lone Wolf and Cub rip-off or parody (it's hard to decide which) in the beginning, and it incorporates a bit too many elements of the infinitely better movie Fong Sai-Yuk to be all that comfortable. But it's also very funny, silly, and - not least - stupid in its own unique way.

Dad (Jet Li) and his baby child are the only surviving inhabitants of a village that has been eradicated due to the villagers having rebelled against the government. Dad vows revenge. Then he finds out that one other person has actually survived - the one who betrayed them to the government for money. In a dashing fight with his flashing expandable spear and a baby bouncing on his back (hopefully not getting too serious brain damage) dad kills off the treacherous villager ... Or at least he thinks he does!

Some years later, dad and son (Miu Tse) are travelling through the country. They barely have enough money to buy food. Still, son throws away a pear his dad bought him with his last two cents, just because it got a bit mashed when he was in a fight. Perhaps he is anticipating that their luck turns at the next instant: a rich man (Sung Young Chen) hires dad as his bodyguard.

The rich man's young son is actually a disciple of the Shaolin monastery, and he is one of the five boys who have gotten a piece each of the top secret Shaolin treasure map tattooed onto their backs. Of course, the government wants to get hold of this map. Meanwhile, a mother & daughter con team has nestled themselves into the rich man's home: the daughter pretends she wants to marry him, while they are actually about to rob him of all his valuables.

And as if this wasn't enough commotion, the treacherous villager back from the beginning of the film has returned. A witch has "made his body invincible", and he is now a fire-damaged corrosive beast driving around in some kind of weird-ass go-kart.

Martial arts:
This film has lots of hilarious kung fu acrobatics. And never mind that real people couldn't lift a burning log with one hand. After all, that's what movies are for: making your wildest dreams real!!

As mentioned, dad's (and also son's) weapon of choice is an expandable spear. It's very flexible, it can be broken into sections, and the head can be taken off and used as a dagger or dart. Pretty cool.

Son is, of course, subject to rigorous training, such as jumping around on two fingers, defying gravity.

Not much at all, really. As in Fong Sai-Yuk, the women are the real heroes, with lots of brains and superior kung fu skills. And, as opposed to Fong Sai-Yuk, the love-interest (con-daughter Ms. Redbean) is actually one of them. When she does use her 'feminine charm', it's just as a weapon to fool men. Her mum, for that matter, is probably the coolest person in the film (and her voice actor was the only one in the American English dubbing who actually had a bit of character).

In pre-school, the teachers always used to tell us that "love starts with fighting" if two kids who were fighting happened to be of opposite sexes. This might not really have been true of the kids in my class, but it is true of dad and Ms. Redbean, who are fighting, using as a weapon first cloth, then thread ...

Hunk factor:
Naah ... Jet Li's character - one of the weakest performances in the film - is not really real enough to be hunky.