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Dragon in Jail

Reviewed by: Libretio
Date: 10/15/2005
Summary: Blood spattered prison/Triad drama


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Mono

Kent Cheng's DRAGON IN JAIL toplines actor-singer Andy Lau as a gold-hearted convict who befriends fellow inmate Kenny Ho (THE RED WOLF) whilst they're both in jail on manslaughter and embezzling charges, respectively. Upon release, however, they both go their separate ways: Ho becomes a lawyer, whilst Lau is dragged into the criminal underworld via the machinations of a thuggish Triad underling (William Ho) who frames him for murder. The film's second half charts a series of appalling tragedies which drive the normally peaceful Lau to seek revenge against his tormentors, culminating in a predictably blood-spattered finale.

A fairly typical Hong Kong potboiler of its day, DRAGON IN JAIL combines heart-rending melodrama with sudden eruptions of choreographed violence, all of which serve to underline the bonds of friendship which unite the leading characters. Kenny Ho acquits himself admirably here, playing a fairly clichéd role, whilst top-billed Lau coasts through proceedings on the strength of his good looks and sensitive acting style, showing no signs of the heavy workload which saw him appear in more than a dozen movies in 1990 (his commercial success meant that he was a popular choice for get-rich-quick Triads operating within the HK film industry at the time). Production values are sparse, but Lam A-do's excellent cinematography makes a virtue of the rough-hewn locations and Lam Sai-kan's low-budget art direction, while Wong Ming-lam's snappy editing keeps the narrative moving along swiftly. Some of the cutting seems a little ragged in places, however, indicating a rushed post-production schedule.

Elsewhere, director Cheng - taking a break from countless acting roles in the likes of RUN AND KILL, CRIME STORY, etc. - acknowledges the sexually ambivalent aspects of the prison setting with a couple of surprisingly candid 'sex' jokes, while the movie's only substantial female role (Gigi Lai, playing Lau's ill-fated girlfriend) is basically sidelined in favor of the intense, 'platonic' friendship which develops between Lau and Ho. HK movie commentator John Charles has chided western observers for their constant citation of "homoerotic undercurrents [in HK movies]... that would not be viewed in such a way by Chinese audiences". Maybe not, but the filmmakers themselves seem to know exactly what they're doing! Ultimately, DRAGON IN JAIL is an enjoyable entry in the HK crime canon, distinguished by its busy plot, fine performances and energetic action sequences.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by:
Date: 09/14/2005
Summary: Classic Andy

Make no mistake, Dragon in Jail is *not* a prison movie. The first few minutes take place in jail, but it's actually a triad flick, a legal drama, a revenge picture and a tearjerker in one. Andy Lau and Kenny Ho star in bravura performances as two close friends with troubled pasts.

Ho Ka Kui shreds the screen as the nasty and reprehensible gangster nemesis of Andy Lau, while Ching Tung shines in perhaps his finest performance ever as Andy's triad buddy.

Don't miss this entertaining and touching film.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 08/22/2005

In yet another in Andy Lau's very long line of Triad flicks, Dragon in Jail has Andy playing a convict named Henry, who is sent to jail after killing a local Triad as they were trying to make a "collection" at his father's shop. In prison, Henry meets up with Vincent (Kenny Ho), a rebellious young man. Both of them bond and gain degrees while they are incarcerated. When they get out, Vincent is able to travel abroad and become a lawyer, but Henry is forced to work a series of menial jobs. When the brothers of the Triad he killed start harassing his family, Henry decides to join the Triads. He becomes a success in the gang, but starts to lose the people that are most vital to him, most notably his pregnant wife, Winnie (Gigi Lai).

Dragon in Jail is a by-the-numbers Triad movie that brings absoultely nothing new to the table. Worse yet, it plods along -- the film does start to catch some steam near the end, but the first half of the picture moves at a snail's pace. It seems puzzling to me that Kent Cheng (himself a mainstay of Hong Kong cops-and-robbers movies) would choose to direct a story that is so similar to many of the films he (and Andy Lau, along with most of the other actors in the picture) previously appeared in. Dragon in Jail is a good example why the Hong Kong production boom of the 1980's eventually fizzled out -- film-makers can only go to the proverbial well so many times before audiences tune out.

[review from]

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: Boring 'wrong' prison movie

As long as anyone doesn't beleive a thing that happens in this prison, then that's alright. A load of rubbish. At some parts, I thouht I was watching the equally bad Island Of Fire.

Andy Lau was okay at times, but this is more of an unfunny comedy.

Rating (out of 5): 1.5
(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Andy Lau stars as an ex-convict who tries to go straight but endsup becoming a head triad boss.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

A cut-and-paste job from the infinitude of HK triad dramas, with Andy Lau as an ex-con who gives up his teaching career to become a hatchet-man for the triads (?). When his wife and boss are raped and murdered, Lau is framed for the crime, but his old pal from prison (now a lawyer) acts as his defense against prosecutor C. K. Chong 'The Terminator.' I've never seen fight and courtroom scenes handled so lackadaisically.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 3