Dragon Tiger Gate (2006)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2008-10-05
A combination of a very evil and almost indestructible bad guy, seamless wire work and terrific cinematography outweigh the by-the-numbers story, dull leading characters and clumsy structure in “Dragon Tiger Gate”. Both Shibumi, the iron masked assassin for the Lousha gang and Dragon Wong, the prodigal son who returns to avenge his master, have too much schoolyard braggadocio during their final showdown, with each of them muttering “is that all you got” and motioning the other forward after taking a hit. One imagines that this is an artifact of the film’s serial comic genesis as is much of the computer generated production design.

The movie is set somewhere in China sometime in the 20th century. There are mobile phones that double as MP3 players and other very recently invented devices that contrast with scenes that take place in sets that echo the modernist/brutalist look of Expressionist classics from the 1920s and 1930s. The plot is sketchy enough that it doesn’t need to be summarized—if you have seen a few Hong Kong martial arts movies you know what is happening and what will happen next. The fragile structure is overburdened with flashbacks that are well done in themselves but add little to our understanding of the current relationships among the characters largely because the characters themselves are so pedestrian. The reconciliation of Turbo with Master Wong was just one example (and not even the most egregious) of bland characters doing the expected.

The fights and stunts were creative and very well executed. If this combination of CGI and wire flying is the future of action movies one can only hope they will all be this good—which they haven’t been and won’t, of course. The action direction was good enough so that we gladly suspended our disbelief when Tiger or Dragon Wong hit a stone wall with enough force to crack it but jumped up ready for more of the same.

Both Li Xiao-Ran and Tung Jie are very attractive young actresses, Tung Jie particularly since she plays a plain sisterly type who has a smoldering and unrequited love for Tiger Wong