- Film takes the premise of 1978 Sammo Hung title of the same name – an overweight Bruce Lee fan – and refashions it with hilarious results
- Comedic action is mixed with scenes of two couples bickering, but the film is also peppered with unintended references to recent events in Hong Kong
Having dispensed with the safety net that was his Ip Man film series following its fourth and final instalment, launched last month, Hong Kong martial arts superstar Donnie Yen Ji-dan appears already to have found a new lease of life with this action-packed buddy-cop comedy. In Enter the Fat Dragon, he shows a humour and spontaneity that are a far cry from his once wooden delivery.
Directed by veteran stuntman Kenji Tanigaki from a script by Wong Jing ( Chasing the Dragon ), Lui Koon-nam ( Undercover Punch and Gun ) and Ronald Chan Kin-hung, this Lunar New Year offering takes the concept of Sammo Hung Kam-bo's eponymous 1978 movie " of an overweight but physically imposing Bruce Lee fan " and refashions it into something resembling a mid-career Jackie Chan vehicle.
Yen plays Fallon Zhu, a Hong Kong policeman so obsessed with restoring order and saving everyone that he can't seem to stop upsetting his fiancee Chloe (Niki Chow Lai-kei), a second-tier TV actress, or bringing trouble to his colleagues. After an improvised attempt to halt a bank robbery goes awry on the day he is due to take wedding photos, Zhu is demoted to the police force's evidence room and ditched by Chloe.
Six months of relentless snacking ensue and Zhu has become a 250-pound (115kg) man when his colleague Shing (Louis Cheung Kai-chung) sends him on a mission to extradite a Japanese fugitive to Tokyo. Once there, Zhu is met by former Hong Kong cop Thor (Wong Jing) and his restaurateur partner (Teresa Mo Shun-kwan), as well as Japanese police inspector Endo (Naoto Takenaka) and his bubbly translator (Jessica Jann).
The action scenes come thick and fast in this movie, which barely takes note of Yen's fat suit as it throws the actor into one massive brawl after another. Zhu may be a martial arts fan, and the film does make its customary nods to Bruce Lee, but its most memorable cinematic reference is not to classic kung fu cinema but to Yen's own fight scene with Wu Jing from the 2005 crime thriller SPL " and it's hilarious.
Equally watchable is the consistently humorous interaction between the two pairs of bickering couples " Yen and Chow, and Wong and Mo. Wong's surprisingly meaty role even sees him take part in action scenes. Meanwhile Jann, an occasional supporting actress in Yen's films (she is a cousin of Yen's wife), also impresses in her best role to date as an adorable comic presence.
Finally, a side note on the film's scripting in the context of Hong Kong's current political divide. Enter the Fat Dragon is one of several upcoming films anti-government protesters have vowed to boycott because of the perceived pro-Beijing stance of producers Yen and Wong. But it may also be seen as one of the most provocative allegories of the city's recent social chaos " if the viewer is so inclined.
The film is peppered with uncanny echoes of current affairs, from Zhu's indignation at collusion between police officers and gangsters in Tokyo, to the witness " presumably murdered by gangsters " whose body is dumped in the sea and whose death is dismissed as a suicide, to Zhu's parting voice-over musing on Bruce Lee's "Be water" idea, adopted by protesters in their battles with police.
Enter the Fat Dragon shows the Frankenstein's monster that is bound to rear its ugly head when mainstream entertainment is dissected through a political lens: here we have an anarchist vision inadvertently dreamed up by the most politically conservative of filmmakers. Make of this what you will.
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