Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dragon Fist

I had the pleasure of watching 'Dragon Fist' today. It is one of Jackie's movies from the Lo Wei years. In fact one of the last Jackie made for Lo Wei. I stumbled across a bit of information the other day that I can't verify but it did come out of a Chinese Biography about Jackie so one assumes it to be fairly factual, which said that Lo Wei, after parting ways with Golden Harvest, had been black listed from making movies in Hong Kong by Golden Harvest which is why nearly all those movies were made in Taiwan or Korea. (It is also why Jackie signing with Golden Harvest was such a big deal at the time.)

'Dragon Fist' is a pleasant surprise, apart from being a little confusing in the beginning when you are not quite sure who is who, it warms up into quite a decent story with plenty of really good martial arts action.

There is one scene during the final extended fight sequence that leaves me breathless at the trust shown by the actor/stuntman in Jackie's accuracy. Even making allowances for a little speeding up in the playback of the film Jackie is still punching the guy repeatedly 'in' the face at very high speed. One mistake and some one is VERY sore! Sometimes it is not so much the incredible choreography (one expects this from Jackie) or the amazing agility and accuracy (again this is just expected) or even the martial arts prowess (what can I say - this is Jackie we are talking about) but what does leave me completely amazed is the incredible trust fellow actors/stuntmen show in each others' skill. Mostly it is other actors trusting in Jackie's control but sometimes it is Jackie who trusts some one to thrust (theoretically) very sharp objects near his face and neck (swords, spears and other weapons).

While Jackie's later forays into the never seen before crazy stunts left audiences gasping personally for me what really leaves me gasping is not the sheer bravery (or should that be stupidity) required to jump from a building onto a rope ladder or slide 3 stories down a pole but the incredible physical mastery of one's body in Jackie's martial arts/fight choreography. And that one mostly sees in his earlier movies.

This one is actually one of the better ones. Many of Jackie's really early films you have to say (with some apology) to newcomers 'Well you watch them to just to watch Jackie'. But Drunken Fist doesn't have a bad story even if it is prone to what Jackie calls 'Why you look at me? Fight! Why you look at me again? Fight!' moments. Jackie is of course the good-guy hero who eventually saves the day (but not before quite a few people are dead and EVEN some at Jackie's hand - hmmm Shinjuku Incident was so NOT the first movie in which Jackie killed people in a movie).

It really has some brilliant fight scenes all choreographed by Jackie and you can recognise his hand in the fight sequences even when he is not actually in them.

I know that he says that he thought of choreographing many opponents coming at him at the same time for the first time in later movies (referencing Police Story I think) but I don't agree with him. Even as early this you can see him starting to develop the idea of multiple opponents at once. Although at this point when he does choreograph multiple opponents he is more evasive than actually fighting them. Even at the end of Fearless Hyena when he clearly takes on 3 sword wielding opponents at once, that portion of choreography is much more evasive than confrontational and when he does dispatch his opponents it is back to one-on-one fighting but one can see the thought developing in his choreography even this early on.

Although if one does compare the very realistic fighting multiple opponents he choreographed in Police Story with the almost ritualised 'dance' from Spiritual Kung Fu when he takes on a group of monks with staffs one has to agree with him that he did really only do a proper fight sequence much later on.

Anyway for those of you who haven't seen Dragon Fist some one has kindly uploaded it onto youtube. But again ... if possible please buy a legal copy - apart from anything else it is actually MUCH better than the fuzzy compressed files from youtube.


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