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  Publicity Stills of "Dragon Tiger Gate"
(Courtesy from Eng Wah)

Genre: Action/Comics
Director: Wilson Yip Wai-shun
Starring: Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue, Dong Jie, Li Xiao-ran, Yuen Wah
RunTime: 1 hr 38 mins
Released By: Eng Wah
Rating: PG (Fighting Scenes)

Opening Day: 28 July 2006

Synopsis :

Tiger Wong is a highly skilled martial artist with a strong sense of justice. At the yearly bun festival, Tiger realizes that a group of triad gangsters are bullying innocent people. Tiger, unable to stand by and just watch, defeats the gangsters using his special move – Dragon Slaying Leg Eighteen, and accidentally grabs the garland from the top of the bun mountain winning the applause and admiration of the audience. Hidden in the garland is a gold medal.

It turns out that this gold medal is the Lousha token decreed by the leader of the Lousha Gate, Shibumi. ‘Gate’ is a word describing martial arts sect or organization and Lousha Gate is a criminal organization in Asia and whoever owns the gold medal has the right to demand the full cooperation of Lousha Gate. Tiger, unaware of the medal’s powers, is ambushed by the gang during his celebrations. As fate has it, he is saved by Dragon Wong, the bodyguard of one of the gangsters, who is sent to retrieve the medal. A blonde youth using nunchakus, Turbo Shek, also joins in to help them. Dragon retrieves the medal from Tiger. Tiger is shocked when he notices a jade pendant and realizes that Dragon is his step-brother.

Although Dragon is part of Jiang Hu - the complicated society of the martial arts world involving different Gates of evil and good, and working for a criminal gang, he has kept himself away from any criminal activities. After Dragon’s gangster boss Ma Kun returns the plaque to Shibumi he announces his retirement from Jiang Hu. Shibumi is angry upon hearing this news and sends his adopted daughter Lousha to destroy Ma.

In the meantime, Tiger has asked Ma Kun’s daughter Ma Xiaoling to help him inform Dragon that they are brothers. Xiaoling, who has already taken a liking to Tiger, agrees to help him. Dragon actually recognised him from the beginning but refuses to accept him. Lousha kills Ma Kun, but fortunately Dragon manages to fight his way out and escapes to Dragon Tiger Gate with Ma Xiaoling. Dragon hands Xiaoling over to Tiger and leaves, as he is unable to forget the past and so is unable to enter Dragon Tiger Gate.

Excited by the appearance of worthy opponents at Dragon Tiger Gate, Shibumi appears itching for a fight and kills their master Wong Jianglong. Tiger and Shek are devastated. They try to fight back but are no match for Shibumi. Shibumi wipes out Dragon Tiger Gate and leave the two heroes for dead.

In desperation Xiaoling manages to escape with the badly wounded heroes to Bai Yun Mountain in China to seek help from Master Qi, an enigmatic recluse. Qi is famed for his expert skills in martial arts and healing, but also know for his eccentricity and unpredictable character. Xiaoling uses everything she can think of to persuade him to help and finally wins him over with her sincerity and Master Qi brings the heroes back from the gates of death. Master Qi then imparts special skills to both Tiger and Shek and they vow to revenge the death of their master Wong Jianglong. Meanwhile, Dragon almost dies from internal injuries but is saved by Lousha, as all along Lousha and Dragon have been lovers.

Back in Lousha Gate, Shibumi is unafraid of the trio’s attack. He waits at the scene of their final showdown…

Movie Review:

First of all, don’t be put off by the cheesy monikers such as “Tiger Wong” and “Dragon Wong” or the incomprehensive slick martial-arts moves. Welcome to the world of “Dragon Tiger Gate”, the fascinating world whereby highly skilled pugilists be they evil or good fight it out! Adapted from the legendary Tony Wong’s classic, must-read HK manga of all times, “Dragon Tiger Gate” popularity is comparable to Marvel’s X-men or Spider-man in the Chinese comics arena.

The story plotting sounds as if they are derived and woven from all those past familiar Ti Lung and David Chiang’s Shaw martial arts movies from the 70’s. Three upright young men (“Dragon”, “Tiger” and “Turbo”) after going through life turmoil decide to band together to rid the country number one’s evildoer, Shibumi. Yah, you must have either heard or seen it somewhere. However, this is one forgivable area, consider the original book formats started their origins back in the early days where the vintage Shaw Production Company is churning out martial-arts genres by the dozens.

Assuming the lead roles is Donnie Yen (who also served as action choreographer and producer), Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue. Accordingly, Tse and Yue have to undergo months of martial arts training to fully pull off the believable stunts onscreen. Both young actors put in a fair performance as “Tiger Wong” and “Turbo Shek” respectively maybe except their mousy hairdo if you want to be picky but Yen’s charismatic and immerse veteran action moves overshadowed all, the moment he displayed that all so-cool kungfu stance.

In addition, the performance from the rest of the supporting cast including Dong Jie and Li Xiao-ran (both relatively newcomers from China) and veteran Yuen Wah is commendable, it’s the ultimate villain, Shibumi that is a letdown. Apparently, little is known about this man-behind-the-mask’s motives, background, thus Shibumi ended up as a two-dimensional character. Or better put, just a punch bag for ‘Dragon Wong’ in the finale. Amazingly, believe it or not Louis Koo is credited as Shibumi under guest appearances. And just like Stan Lee usual appearances in Marvel’s productions, Tony Wong the original scribe of the comics appear as Master Qi.

The costume and sets design is a nod to the comics. Sets such as the ‘Tiger Dragon Gate’, 'Japanese restaurant’ and ‘Inn’ looks as though they are practically lifted out from the pages from the manga. The inclusion of hand-drawn comics-like images serving as backgrounds has a nice, nostalgia touch.

Or perhaps it’s the ultimately fast, harrowing action sequences that best captured the comic spirit. The immensely gravity-defying kicks and spinning moves is a treat to the kungfu hungry audience. The outrageous kungfu moves on paper simply comes to live under Yen’s choreography. Get your eye drop ready because the moment you blink an eye, you might miss a deadly fast move by the trio!

Directed by Wilson Yip, the man behind last year’s hard-hitting “SPL”, “Dragon Tiger Gate” is part fantasy, part action and adapted from a well-known comic and most of all, a fitting showcase of what the flagging HK film industry is capable of pulling off.

Movie Rating:

(The West has X-men and Spider-man. The East has Dragon Tiger Gate. It’s time to release the oriental jewel once again!)

Review by Linus Tee


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