Korean country boy Tae leaves for Singapore to learn ballroom
dancing from former champion Emi Lim. Though he is the worst
stydent in the studio, Emi recognises his passion and talent
and soon romance blossoms. Emi boyfriend, Cheng, a former Kung
Fu champion challenges Tae to a showdown with the loser leaving
town and Emi for good.
The folks at ‘Uniquely Singapore’ should
be pleased at this good to look at movie.
Indeed, cinematographer turned writer-director John Radel
has created many pretty, postcard-worthy shots of Singapore
in his debut feature film here. Unfortunately, this is also
the best thing that his co-production with producer Robin
Leong has to offer.
The story revolves around a Korean country boy Tae (played
by Jang Hyuk) who has been in love with ballroom dancing since
young. After ten years working in a dead-end factory job,
Tae realises that a dance audition in Singapore may be his
last ticket at pursuing his lifelong dream of being a dancer.
Against the objections of his pragmatic father, he flies off
to our sunny island and meets Emi (Fann Wong), the dance instructor
he eventually falls for.
But this unexpected romance pits him against Emi’s boyfriend,
a former martial arts champion Cheng (Jason Scott Lee), who
challenges Tae to a showdown. There is also a subplot of Emi
mustering the courage to compete once again after retiring
from an ankle injury a few years earlier.
A bold attempt at bringing together dance and martial arts,
Dance of the Dragon nevertheless suffers from a paper thin
plot and caricatured characters. The very idea of Tae coming
to Singapore to learn dancing is in itself dubious. But what
really requires the audience to suspend their belief is Fann
Wong’s portrayal of Emi as a former dance champion.
Except for the very last scene where Tae and Emi take to the
dance floor, we never get to see Emi actually dancing. In
fact, Tae’s dancing when he first auditions is impressive
enough to lead us to think that the student may actually be
better than the teacher. Even the nicely edited close-up shots
fail to make you believe that Emi is a great dancer.
Of course, the story is not helped by its flat one-note characters.
Tae is the underdog who will triumph, Emi is the has-been
that will regain her glory, and Cheng is the jealous lover
who will learn sacrifice. Sans for Tae, there is little for
the audience to actually empathize with for both Emi and Cheng.
And that is naturally a disappointment, because Dance of the
Dragon is also easily Singapore’s most technically accomplished
movie. The shots are beautiful, the music (while at times
overwrought) is evocative and the production design is inspired.
One hopes therefore that John Radel had spent as much time
developing the story and the characters as he had ensuring
that the movie looked pretty on screen.
At best therefore, this represents a missed opportunity, a
unique concept of dance and martial arts set in our island
city that appeared so promising let down ultimately by a ho-hum
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Making Of Featurette: Writer-director John Radel,
producer Robin Leong and the principal cast talk about the
filming of this movie in Singapore. Watching it only serves
as a sad reminder of what this movie could have been.
is presented in both Dolby 2.0 and Dolby 5.1 and the surround
effect is best at the martial arts showdown between Tae and
Cheng. Picture quality is excellent, complimenting the beautifully
by Gabriel Chong