dragon gate inn movie posterThis movie is a remake of of the Dragon Gate Inn from 1966 (also known as Dragon Inn) and is said to be an excellent wuxia film with excellent swordplay…

But I didn’t find it all that great.

Set during the Ming Dynasty in the desert, a power hungry Eunuch named Tsao Siu-yan (Donnie Yen) is an official who rules like an emperor.  Using his army he kills all those who oppose him in any way, leading up to the execution of a defense minister named Yang Yu-xuan and his family.

Luckily, two of Yang’s children are rescued by Mo-yan Yau (Brigitte Lin) and some others, who intended to take the children to safety by passing through the Dragon Gate Pass over the border.

On the way they are forced to stop (and stay due to bad weather) at the Dragon Gate Inn, run by a woman named Jade (Maggie Cheung).  Jade has an interesting ‘behind the scenes’ operation where she seduces men and then murders them so they can be cooked up and served as ‘mixed meat’ in her buns.

Mo-yan meets up with a man named Chow Wai-on and they work together to escape their pursuers  by strategically planning to exit the Dragon Gate Inn.

Not a Bad Story

The idea behind the film is actually pretty simple and entertaining.

Mo-yan and Wai-on work together to take the 2 children to a safe place and are being pursued by a larger more formidable force that’s under Tsao Siu Yan, and are basically stuck at the Dragon Gate Inn with their pursuers as they slowly work on out smarting the other and escaping from their reach.

dragon inn

There’s a decent feeling of tension and you have no idea what’s about to happen next, as each event plays out slowly making things a bit more interesting.  While it never really escalates to much until the end of the film, it does make it intriguing to watch.

Jade and the Dragon Gate Inn

The Dragon Gate Inn itself is a rather interesting place with some interesting characters and going ons.  Jade, the woman who owns the In,n is rather interesting – she’s gorgeous and every man wants her, but all she’s interested in is numero uno, until Wai-on arrives.

Once Wai-on arrives she wants him!  

She’s hits on Wai-on and prattles around him like a school girl until she realizes his interest in Mo-yan.  She then goes to extraordinary lengths to have her way with him, defending him from arrest in return for his hand in marriage.  She even steals a flute that belonged to Mo-yan (which Wai-on was holding onto for sentimental value) and refuses to return it until the wedding night.

Some funny and slightly explicit moments include her trying to get Wai on into bed after their wedding in which he asks “Where is the secret tunnel?” (to escape the dragon gate inn) to which she replies “In my body!” before trying to drag him into bed one more time.

Jade really complicates things for Wai on and Mo-yan and creates an interesting 3rd party between the heroes and villains that’s a little raunchy and funny.

action with Donnie Yen

The Action & Martial Arts

This is the weak link.  As a guy who loves good action, it was hard to see the fighting in this movie as anything but standard and relatively boring, before dragging the movie’s dignity down a fair few notches right at the end.

Very quick flashes of wire-fu action that’s reasonably well performed are thinly spread throughout the movie.  But it all goes down hill in the final fight between the main characters and Donnie Yen’s character Tsao Siu-yan.

The fight starts off with great pace and action right up until his foot and hand are skinned to reveal the bones.  Seemingly alarmed, he just forgets and keeps fighting through it (crazy!?!) until eventually being stabbed in the neck and his ‘boney foot’ crumbling underneath him.  Reminiscent of some older Kung Fu movies in terms of ridiculous nature, but a bit much for a film made in the early 90’s that also had such a smooth and down to earth story leading up to it.

The Verdict?

Not a fan of the action at all.  The story was quite interesting and would have been it’s saving grace if the whole “fighting as a half a skeleton” thing didn’t drag it down a few notches.  If you really want to see Donnie Yen in one of his earlier films check it out, but don’t expect a hell of a lot.

On DVD –

Region Free (everywhere)
Dragon Gate Inn – Region Free DVD

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