Review: Dragon (Wu-Xia)
I should probably preface this by saying that martial arts movies tend not to be my thing. But there have been a couple that I’ve enjoyed, and the storyline of Dragon sounded interesting, so I thought I’d give it a go.
Liu Jin-xi, a papermaker from a small village in China, is hailed as a local hero when he kills two hardened criminals who try to murder the village store owner. Detective Xu Bai-ju steps in to investigate the incident, and is confused by Jin-xi’s ability to fight the two notorious gangsters single-handedly. He starts to pry into the craftsman’s life, looking for answers, and after discovering that he has only been in the village he calls home for five years, sets out to uncover the hero’s past. In the process, he draws the attention of China’s criminal underworld, and in an attempt to uphold the law ends up setting in motion a chain of bloodshed and destruction, uncovering shocking secrets along the way.
It should be exciting, or at least interesting. It isn’t. It’s boring, and feels a lot longer than 115 minutes. And I’m not alone in this: I counted three other reviewers leaving the cinema part of the way through, and the men in the row behind me kept sighing and checking their phones.
It could be a fascinating, beautifully shot movie about the concept of destiny, of never escaping one’s past. It could just as easily be a coming-of-age story focusing on the parallels between Jin-xi’s life and that of his son. It’s not. It’s just a bore.
There are moments when it almost seems redeemable. The village in which the story is set is very beautiful, and the love story between Jin-xi and his wife is touching. But just as you think it might actually be OK, you’re drawn into another slow-motion yawnfest detailing the intricacies of Jin-xi’s martial arts abilities.
2013 looks set to be a good year for movies in general, and this one would be bottom of my list.