Dragon Inn (1992)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-06-23
This is a wonderful movie that one can enjoy on many levels. It has an outstanding cast with four great actors at or approaching the top of their game, startling cinematography that shows both the sweep of the desolate plain where the Inn is located and also its claustrophobic interior, a script that does justice to both the its wuxia basis and also the delicate interplay between the well drawn and believable characters. Donnie Yen as the power mad eunuch Tsao Siu-yan is the embodiment of evil. Chow Wai-on, played by Tony Leung Ka-fai is his opposite, a noble swordsman willing to sacrifice his life for his duty. Brigitte Lin as Yau Mok Sau is sexy, tough, noble and very adept with her sword. Maggie Cheung as Gam Seung Yuk is sexy, tough, crafty and adept with all her weapons, including her body.

Terrific action throughout the movie but especially in the first 20 minutes as the rebels fight a desperate rear guard action against the eunuch’s forces and barely escape with their lives and the lives of the two young children of the last of Tsao’s rivals. The ultra-violent and astonishingly well shot final battle scene involves all four of the leads—it is a running fight that we see from seemingly every angle possible. It looks impossible—the stills are breathtaking—and must have been exhausting to film.

There is a competitive strip-tease scene between Maggie and Brigitte that beggars description—Brigitte wins this round but the audience knows that there is more conflict to come between them. There is the gruesome yet delightfully matter of fact way that Maggie ensures there will be meat for her paying guests—by occasionally seducing one of them, then dumping him into the basement where her cooks wait to carve him up. It is up to the viewer to decide whether being debauched by Maggie Cheung would be worth a quick trip to the butcher’s block. There is enough well choreographed action to please the most discerning wuxia pien aficionado, romance, betrayal, heroism and even a bit of history. Raymond Lee Wai-Man knits it all together seamlessly. And while this may seem to be faint praise or a negative virtue, there is no stupid clowning around for comic relief. The lighting in some of the interiors of the Inn is dark enough to be almost indistinct but not for long enough to be intrusive. Both Moon Tong Lau and Arthur Wong receive credit as cinematographer and whoever was behind the camera during those interior shots is a real master of using a fluid camera in a tight setting.

Highly recommended.