Legend of Red DragonAnother Jet Li 90’s classic!  This time the kung fu and comedy is there as it was with many of his films from this time but with Jet Li playing a more serious and straight character.

Jet Li is Hung Hei-kwun, a man on the run with his son several years after the government raided his home and massacred his village.  He is a highly skilled martial artist and has trained his son into a young boy with incredible skills.

As father and son they wander about China, homeless, until he is offered a job to teach Kung Fu to a local man who is rather wealthy.  Initially Hei-kwun refuses, but his son’s hunger and lack of money forces him to offer his services as a bodyguard.  So for a room and food Hei-kwun becomes a bodyguard to the wealthy man.

But there’s a lot going on in this household!

This wealthy man is being conned by a young woman who is using her mother, pretending to be dead, as means to deceive the man into marrying her before she steals everything from him.

Also his son, a member of Shaolin, is one of five children with different pieces of a map tattooed on his back, revealing the whereabouts of some ‘Shaolin Treasure’ – since Shaolin started burying and hiding their treasure like pirates!

The government of course is after the Shaolin treasure and lead by a man made immortal by a witch, who happens to be someone Hei-kwun thought he had killed. Thus a rivalry between both men develops and the situation gets complicated which among all of these things, leads to a lot of cool Kung Fu fights.

the son

A different feel then other Jet Li comedies

This film has the same antics, actors and general concepts used in Jet’s other 90’s comedies with a difference – he acts composed and cool at all times!  His tone of voice barely changes, his movements are very straight and he shows a lot of calm confidence.

This leads to a different type of comedic performance from Jet Li, as he portrays a character who takes himself rather seriously, among the usual crazy antics you get a different kind of contrast then expected.

His personality I think was motivated by (and is a little similar to) Ogami from Lone Wolf and Cub (aka Shogun Assassin), even the sword and ball scene are copied almost exactly – as Hei-kwun’s son must choose the toy to die young or the sword to live a life by his fathers side – a true warriors path which could lead to death at any moment.

While this scene looks like a cheap rip off, I think it was intended to be more of a small nod to fans of the Samurai series Lone Wolf and Cub, and gives the audience a feel for who Jet Li’s character is supposed to be like. This acts a cool center between all of the different and sometimes confusing things happening within the household.

Ultimately he pulls off a different vibe in his performance, but the story still flows like a fun early 90’s Kung Fu comedy – mixed with lots of crazy action.

Jet Li

The Action & Martial Arts

So it’s full of wire work, it’s sped up and is everything that a lot of today’s audiences have come to despise.  With movies like Ong Bak promoting “No CGI, no wires”, people expect something a little different from these movies these days.  But such is the style of these films and believe it or not – it’s still impressive to watch!

The movements and choreography are still well thought out and precise, and the final product is a fast and intense performance of martial arts movements.

Jet Li relies mostly on his spear in this film, as his weapon of choice but just as impressive is his character’s son who shows off a variety of fighting movments during some small scuffles between himself and some other young boys.  I was impressed with his abilities!

The Verdict?

A decent Kung Fu comedy from the 90’s, somewhat of a classic but not a list topper.  Watch it for a bit of fun and entertainment!

On DVD –

Region 1 (US & Canada)
Legend of the Red Dragon

Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Legend of the Red Dragon [DVD]

Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
Jet Li 3 film Collector’s pack

More info on Movie Regions here.

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