Fire Dragon Review
Another Optimum Asia back catalogue release, another sub-standard package. The usual lack of extras and non-anamorphic transfer of an old, dirty, soft and flickering print (though we do get the original Cantonese stereo soundtrack in reasonable condition and optional English subs) are in this case matched by the mediocrity of the film itself, Fire Dragon being a well below average example of nineties Hong Kong cinema.
From the off it becomes apparent that the plotting – involving political conspiracy and a letter everyone wants to get their hands on – is a mere MacGuffin, yet with Yeun Wo Ping as director this shouldn’t prove to be a problem. After all if one of Hong Kong’s finest action choreographers can sustain Fire Dragon with some typically feisty examples of his craft then its scant 85 minute duration should be perfectly adequate as a piece of mindless entertainment (in this respect Iron Monkey 2, another recent Optimum Asia release in which Yuen had a hand, proved itself to be no less than entertaining). Yet despite Brigitte Lin in the lead – indeed, in the title role – the focus is on other matters and Fire Dragon sees itself primarily as a comedy.
On its own terms this shouldn’t offer too much in the way of difficulties if Yuen is as dab a hand with comedy as he is action, but sadly this doesn’t prove to be the case. Indeed, his comparatively few fight scenes for Fire Dragon are decidedly below par within the context of his prolific career, yet appear positively masterful when compared to the way in which he handles its excessively broad sense of humour. Of course, martial arts cinema has rarely been blessed with subtlest forms of comedy, but here everything is pitched at the level of a pre-school kids’ TV show. It’s an approach which may endear it to some, though these are likely to be in the minority.
Moreover, there’s very little effort made to provide any respite from the continually over the top tone. As said, the plotting is essentially an excuse for the gags and has only the predictable switching of allegiances and sentimental interludes up its sleeve. All of which – when combined with the distinct lack of extras and shoddy presentation (the only plus point of which being that Fire Dragon is in its original aspect ratio) – should warn off most from ever approaching this disc.