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Dragon Lord

Jackie Chan checks out the ceiling in Dragon Lord.
AKA: Young Master in Love
Chinese: 龍少爺  
Year: 1982
Director: Jackie Chan
Producer: Raymond Chow
Action: Jackie Chan, Fung Ke-An, Corey Yuen Kwai
Cast: Jackie Chan, Mars, Whang In-Sik, Chan Wai-Man, Tien Fun, Tai Bo, Fung Hak-On
The Skinny: Before embarking on a new era in his career, Jackie Chan delivered this period-set kung fu stunt extravaganza that prefigured his Police Story days. Dragon Lord is a mess, but what a fine mess it is.
Review by

When Jackie Chan starred in 1994's Drunken Master II, it had been twelve years since he had last appeared in a period martial arts film. The last movie to feature him in such a role was Dragon Lord, a 1982 film that marked both the end of an era for Chan and the beginning of a new one for his career.

Before embarking on modern action pictures like Police Story and the Lucky Stars films, Chan used Dragon Lord as a vehicle to bid a temporary goodbye to the genre that made him famous. With Chan at the helm as director, one can see that he was clearly a filmmaker in transition. Dragon Lord is a messy, rudderless, yet somehow entertaining hybrid of Chan's more traditional kung fu films and the type of neck-breaking stunt extravaganzas that would typify his later career and earn him superstardom worldwide.

Originally intended to be a sequel to Chan's 1980 hit The Young Master (as evidenced by its working title, Young Master in Love), Dragon Lord went on to become a standalone film, as Chan's directorial excesses strayed further from his original intentions. The plot, if it can be called that, revolves around a rascal named Dragon Ho (Jackie Chan) and his best friend, Cowboy (Mars), who find themselves stumbling upon clichéd Hong Kong cinema plotline #47: a conspiracy to smuggle ancient treasures out of China.

Before that, the movie seems to meander around for no other purpose than to watch characters engage in low comedy or highlight some interesting but narratively pointless stunts: an opening sequence where loads of competitors try to climb a giant pyramid to snatch the prize on top and an impromptu shuttlecock match between Chan and his pals that plays like an ingenious combo of soccer, hackey sack and badminton are just a couple examples of the entertaining but unnecessary diversions set up in the film's first hour. Ultimately, Dragon Lord rights itself as Chan delivers a crackerjack action finale in which he duels a very scary-looking Whang In-Sik mano-a-mano. It's wildly entertaining, bone crunching stuff, but even forgiving audiences will wish Dragon Lord's storyline was a little bit sharper.

Of course, the behind-the-scenes drama of Dragon Lord helps explain the film's myriad problems. Most of them can be traced directly back to its director and star. In the midst of a real-life breakup with singer Teresa Teng, Chan went overbudget and was woefully behind schedule on Dragon Lord. Reports indicate that he would hire tons of stuntmen and shoot miles of costly footage only to abandon these intricate sequences on the cutting room floor. Dragon Lord was a costly flop for the box office champ and taught him a lesson about film that he wouldn't soon forget.

Although Chan's lack of a unified vision is a bit disappointing, the film itself is so happy-go-lucky that it's hard to get too upset about its scattershot narrative. As a cohesive film experience, Dragon Lord is a woeful failure, but in terms of pure action, this 1982 "classic" amounts to a worthwhile viewing experience for fans of Jackie Chan and action films in general. At the very least, it's a tasty preview of the Police Story-era Jackie Chan we've all come to love. (Calvin McMillin 2005)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Joy Sales
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
image courtesy of Fortune Star
 Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen