Dragons Forever (1988)
Reviewed by: dragyn on 2001-05-03
Summary: Three Brothers Forever
"Dragons Forever" is a film that has it all: action, comedy, romance, and the three brothers (Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Samo Hung) working side by side in inimitable fashion. On the surface, this looks like an almost flawless masterpice of action Kung Fu.

However, if you look beneath the surface, there are more flaws than might first meet the eye. Many reviews have been written about the effortless interaction betweeen the three brothers; in actual fact, the moments during which they really interact with each other are sadly few and far between. Rather than sharing virtually equal screen-time (such as in "Wheels on Meals"), starring moments are in fact distributed between the brothers very unevenly indeed: Chan is the star, and virtually carries the whole production; Hung makes a solid but predictable foil for the whirlwind that is Chan; Biao is stuck with an uncharismatic role as a spotty, nerdy, weedy, neurotic geek. Of the three brothers, Biao is the only one who neither puts in a solid fight nor gets the girl; however, when he is given half a chance, his athletic and acrobatic talent shines brightly. Unfortunately, he seems to lack much of the weight and screen presence that Hung and Chan possess, despite the fact that he is arguably more physically talented.

The story itself is a slushy, sacharinne-sweet love-story, that is barely believable enough to string the amazing fights togather cohesively. There are soem good concepts and ideas, but they are not executed seriously enough to make any emotional impact - although that was most likely intended. Chan plays a lady-killing, case-busting, hard-hitting lawyer who falls in love with the woman he is prosecuting. Sadly, Chan is completely unable to portray the playboy-type character he supposed to be playing; but happily, he instead changes the reading completely, and gives it the full Jackie Chan treatment: big hair, big smile, big charm - and a complete buffoon to boot. But a loveable, appealing, strangely plausible buffoon.

Samo Hung's directing is, at this stage, not far removed from the simplistic, invisible style that Chan himself has stuck to over the years. There are not really any precursers here that show what he has since become; everything the camera touches is actually rendered quite flat and monotone. However, Hung does use some ideas and themes that Chan would never dream up: the strong element of love conquering all, for instance. The comedy is the same formulaic Hong Kong stuff, but Chan and Hung inject it with a charm of their own. Biao, however, does not seem so easy with the moments of comedy he must perform; a lot of his more "humourous" moments are, in fact, much more something to endure than to enjoy - rather like a visit to the dentist.

The brothers may not interact enough - but when they do interact, the film is lifted to some higher sphere: for instance, the genuinely funny scene in which Chan is trying to stop Biao and Hung fighting and ends up getting hit himself; the classic moment where the three surly, bruised, battered brothers glower at the bar - drinking milk, for some reason; and lastly and most gloriously, the unforgettable fight between the three brother themselves. During this altercation, fists and insults fly, and they work so perfectly in harmony that you almost forget exactly how fast they are moving - but you don't forget for long.

The end fight re-matches Chan against the power-house that is Benny "The Jet" Urquidez (Chan fought him once before in "Wheels on Meals", during one of the greatest fights ever comitted to celluloid.). Certainly, it's a match well worth revisiting. This fight is only just inferior to their first, unmatchable pairing; this time, comedy is lacking, and Urquidez looks disconcertingly like a very unconvincing drag-queen. He has also aged and sagged dramatically. But when the fists start flying - who cares? It may not match the "Wheels on Meals" fight - but it's a close call. Yuen Biao choreographs, packing their punches with phenomonal power; he adds an edge of realisim that is very different to Chan's own, sometimes slap-stick-heavy choreography, but just as good. This stops Chan from looking too much like the buffoon he is known as, and more like a slick, mean, furious fighting machine.

In short, "Dragons Forever" holds some of the finest fights ever filmed - and it has enough going on to keep you awake between fights, too.