Saturday, October 11, 2008

Return of the Kung Fu Dragon

The Action Mutant…
just found out what “Superman” means…and he’ll leave it at that.

Return of the Kung Fu Dragon

review by Joe Burrows

Seriously, I can’t follow the whole “Superman” thing. If you are unknowing about the “Superman” phenomenon (i.e. if you’re Caucasian), you might want to keep from Googling it. At least this won’t be one internet craze the people at Family Guy will jump on.

The Plot, as it was:
An evil ruler (Tsai Hung) and his army conquer the Kingdom of Phoenix Island, slaughtering the island’s three main warriors in the process. The offspring of the three deceased (Polly Kuan, Cheung Lik & Li Chung-Chien) are hidden away & are allowed to find each other nineteen years later. They team up then to gain revenge and take their land back, as lots of sorcery & swordplay follows.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
The worst thing about Return of the Kung Fu Dragon is not the fact that its title has nothing to do with the film (c-mon, a guy in a stuffed dragon suit emerging from the sea & doing kung fu? Money, baby!). There’s trenchant dubbing, worse editing and the martial arts is not exactly on the level of Yuen Woo-Ping (or a hung over Yuen Woo-Ping…with one arm & a limp). Funny thing is none of those matters, for at merely 83 minutes, RotKFD rolls with all of those horrible, schlock trappings & makes for a fun time killer. A few bizarre touches are worth the mention, such as the running joke involving the evil ruler being constantly subdued by having his Pai Mei style beard always tied into objects, a la shoestrings. Or the Bjork-looking midget (Hsiao Wang) that I swore was an old woman at first & had me confused right up to his (her?) last scene. Fortunately, there was no Crying Game theatrics here. Speaking of theatrics, there are enough elaborate (yet cheap) sets & insanely gaudy costumes to go along with the operatic grandeur the flick builds up. It’s total costume melodrama, with over the top death scenes & corny dialogue galore and enough unnecessary plot twists thrown to show that the effort is there. And the costumes…good gravy, the costumes! One of the male heroes dresses like a centurion you would find in a Vegas casino, a bad guy has a big red bow in his hair & the Bjork midget looks like an Indian that wandered off of the Bonanza set! Everything is thrown into the cauldron for this one (dig the magic mirror & the burning gravel!), which means there are enough crudely imaginative elements to make Return of the Kung Fu Dragon strangely viewable at best. That is, if you’re a hardcore Fu junkie. If you’re a normal person, you might take a pass on it.

Body Count/Violence: 42. Lots of fighting & sword slashing in this one, with it getting bloody only every so often. Plus, there’s neck breaking, stabbing, flesh melting (though not graphic…more like flesh disappearing), hot pebble flinging (!) and more. One of the heroes does an honest-to-God, white man’s rana on a bad guy, which brought a warm smile to my face.

Sexuality/Nudity: None, though I dug Polly Kuan’s (Ma Chen Chen) conflicting time period costuming. Loved the green & white striped knee highs and the gold showgirl outfit!

Language/Dialogue: A few “bastards” and a really slurred “bitch”.

How bad was it?:
Very few reviews from critics on this one…and none that is all too positive. The IMDB feedback was very mixed for what little of it there was, though all of it mentioned the overall cheapness of the production.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Though there is no studio listed, I assume one produced Return of the Kung Fu Dragon. One in Taiwan, which is where this was supposedly made. No budget/box office numbers are available and it is only available on DVD through a Martial Arts box set that includes the first two Street Fighter films & Fighting Mad.

Film: *1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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