Legend of the Dragon (Long Wu Fu Zi)



Film review by Lee Alon

Through the decades, Sammo Hung has maintained a high profile as one of the kung fu world's premier foundations. From brief beginnings as an imperial lackey in King Hu's seminal A Touch of Zen, to comedy classics like Wheels on Meals (where he teamed with both his sparring buddies, Yuen Biao and Jackie Chan), Hung's prolific contribution remains unblemished, despite having made Martial Law for TV. He additionally ensconced himself in the wushu hall of fame via a whole bevy of credits as director and action choreographer, although recent times saw the guy partake in more than the occasional bout of silver screen debacle, including, albeit not limited to, The Avenging Fist and ho-hum Hidden Enforcers.

But forgiving Sammo this latest affront to decency stands as a major challenge. Legend of the Dragon, no relation to the early '90's Stephen Chow film of the same name, has to be one of the vilest, most gluttonous piles of stereotypical, propaganda-driven crapola we've seen in eons. It's so well-fed on a steady diet of nonsense, it makes big man Sammo himself look like a Jenny Craig poster child, and leaves us wondering what the hell this particular role model of ours was thinking when parked on the director's hot seat. Adding insult to mockery, LOTD features Timmy Hung, son of Sammo. These nepotistic collaborations fail more often than they work, and this excursion's no exception, unless you happen to be clamoring for dorky slapstick humor, Timmy's forte. Having said that, within the movie's intellectually-constrained context Hung Jr.'s spectrum of facial expressions and exaggerated body language does have some merit. Even so, any onlooker with at least one side of their cranium functioning will quickly tire of such obvious routines.
The tale opens with Fung Ki (Timmy Hung) and his buddy Richard (Huang Xiao Ming) hanging out in Hong Kong and leading a typical Gen-Y slacker existence as couriers for Fung Ki's mom's small delivery operation. The latter, Susanna, opposes Fung Ki and his plans to become a martial arts expert as mandated by his dad's legacy in this field. She believes kung fu makes one destitute and restless, and prefers to see her son continue life as a busy urbanite rather than become stricken with wanderlust like her sojourning husband (to whom we'll get to in a second). However, fate and Fung Ki's object of attraction, supermodel Laura, interfere. Desiring the young lady, the doofus butts heads with Robert, her other, more powerful suitor, and mighty karate champ (played by Carl Ng, the cop from Color Blossoms). The two decide to meet at a later point and duel it out for Laura's affections, thus compelling Fung Ki to track down Dragon Ki, venerable Tai Chi disciple and absentee patriarch (Sammo Hung).
Searching for his progenitor, Fung Ki brings Richard along to The Mainland, a mystical land of quaint villages populated by virtuous hicks who, wonder of wonders, can actually muster enough modernity to fire up a laptop and log on to The Internet. Amazing! While not online, marveling at the magnificence of The City, these backward denizens of the bucolic countryside practice nirvana-attaining Tai Chi, tree-hugging and all. But in LOTD everyone's a walking, talking stigma of a caricature, so Fung Ki and Richard get to represent for HK, a shallow, hedonistic place brimming with tacky bars and triad chauffeurs fighting cops on darkened street corners. Thanks for the progressive liberalism, Sammo.
In Wang's Tai Chi Village, the buffoonish HK duo meet Wang Yi and Wang Yeung, two lovelies with a penchant for pneumatic workouts and looking naïve as befits "traditional" mainland Chinese ladies. Together, the posse harangue father figure Dragon Ki to reunite with son Fung Ki and wife Susanna, and prepare for the coming fight against Robert. But Legend of the Dragon's sanitized to the point of sheer annoyance, so forget about real action or visceral gratification. The choreography amounts to a disappointment even though Sammo's in charge, and its story reaches no climax at all, with conflicts resolved in a G-rated, smiles-all-around manner that's enough to drive you up the walls in irritation.
Above all else, this movie disgusted us with its sycophantic kowtowing to someone's perceived political agenda, opening with a cheesy, patriotic segment extolling the glory of Motherland China, and further using such trite clichés en route to finishing with a red flag waving gallantly atop the village schoolhouse. These elements are about as relevant to martial arts stories as chocolate spread is to barbecue pits, and combined with chauvinistic portrayal of both HK and the mainland, render Legend of the Dragon utterly useless and legendary only inside its DVD case. Avoid.

Rating: 3/10

Directed by Johnny Lee King-kai
Starring Timmy Hung, Sammo Hung, Huang Xiao Ming, Carl Ng, Richard Ng, Leung Kar Yan, Ellis Tang
2005, Cantonese/Putonghua, 92 minutes