Monday 2 October 2017

The Current Cinema - John Snadden misses the GF Parade to track down CHASING THE DRAGON (Wong Jing, China, 2017)

Well, I missed the Grand Final parade on Friday but I didn't miss not seeing the Adelaide supporters (better luck next year!). On the same day, I also missed seeing the new Mainland pic YOUTH (Feng Xiaogang, 2017) which had its release delayed by the Chinese government. But I did manage to see the new Wong Jing production CHASING THE DRAGON, which stars Donnie Yen and Andy Lau as two real-life characters from Hong Kong's underworld during the 1960s and 70s.

Donnie Yen plays the infamous Chiu Chow gangster Crippled Ho, and Lau is the notoriously corrupt HK police officer, Lee Rock. The film is a mish-mash remake of the 1990s Canto gangster pics, TO BE NUMBER ONE, and LEE ROCK. Yen gives an OK performance as the brutal crime kingpin but he does seem miscast, as opposed to Lau who gives his best performance for years as a scheming puppet master keeping the peace between the triad gangs and the Hong Kong police, whilst allowing the illegal money from drugs, prostitution, gambling and extortion to continue flooding in.

Donnie Yen, Chasing the Dragon
Cineastes and fans of crime films won't miss picking where CHASING THE DRAGON pinches sequences and scenes from other crime movies, the most egregious being Michael Cimino's YEAR OF THE DRAGON and John Woo's BULLET IN THE HEAD. But what do you really expect - it is a Wong Jing film!

Ultimately, this movie lacks the gravitas of much better pics like TO BE NUMBER ONE, but it does sport a few pretty good action sequences, of which the best is a frenetic foot chase through the criminal hive of the Walled City, which ends with one of the most bone crunching scenes I've witnessed in a long time.

Andy Lau, Chasing the Dragon
If you haven't seen these early 90s gangster pics, you'll probably enjoy this new Canto movie. But, for me, all CHASING THE DRAGON does is make me yearn for the great Hong Kong gangster films of yesteryear.

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