There is something fascinating about having a director who has become known for independent and/or arthouse films directing a movie that falls under the action category, with Hou Hsiao-hsen’s “The Assassin” and Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster” being two of the most distinct samples. In that regard, I was somewhat eager to watch Fruit Chan’s effort in the martial arts genre, despite the fact that most of his studio-produced movies were mediocre, to say the least. Max Zhang’s presence, who has been groomed for Donnie Yen’s place in HK/Chinese action cinema since the aforementioned film, the script that also followed in that direction, the big budget, and Anderson Silva’s presence all pointed towards a movie, which, even if it ended up being a flick, it would at least be impressive and entertaining. Alas…
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Kowloon is a very competent but quite reckless “supercop” who also seems to share a connection with a sea dragon, since the two met during the former’s childhood. His extreme methods, however, eventually take a toll on his career and he is transferred to a small precinct, in a seemingly quiet district. There, Kowloon manages to calm himself and to find a colleague, Fong Ning, who eventually becomes his fiancée. At one point however, a serial killer who targets female cops emerges in the area, and after a rather failed attempt to catch him, Fong Ning is kidnapped. Years later, Kowloon is a wreck, despite the efforts of a female psychologist, who also happens to be the daughter of a mogul. The serial killer has also disappeared but when a female cop is killed in Macau, Kowloon is immediately back in action, trying to find the killer and his fiancée, with the help of a former colleague, Chow. Sinclair, a fighter who lost to Kowloon some years ago, also reemerges at around that time, while the local police are not very keen to let Kowloon have his way with his research.
Let me start with the most obvious aspect the film: even considering the tendency of HK mainstream cinema to focus on specific moments in the story instead of the whole of it, this script is quite messy. Fruit Chan and Lam Kee-to seem to have tried to incorporate as many mainstream-popular elements they could in the story, resulting in an outcome that is almost completely incoherent. From the traditional concept of the dragon, to the thriller, and from the martial arts (including the favorite motif of the local against the foreign) to the romance, one can find almost every element that is considered popular, but unfortunately, any kind of coherence is nowhere to be found.
Apart from this, though, the movie could compensate with its action scenes, which is where the Max Zhang/Anderson Silva element I mentioned in the prologue would apply. However, and despite the fact that this part is definitely better than the script, particularly due to a brutal showdown in a police precinct, in its bulk, and especially due to the filled with CGI ending, the film does not deliver even in that part.
Furthermore, the acting is subpar (Silva definitely cannot act), the editing fast but messy, and the cinematography too polished and filled with SFX to have any particular impact, even in the action scenes. The scene I just mentioned as the only one that stands out, owes much to the lack of the above, which are substituted by a very engaging rawness.
The only element I found resembling Fruit Chan’s oeuvre is the scene where the psychologist reveals her true appearance, in a grotesque symbolism that is probably the only truly meaningful part of the narrative.
“Invincible Dragon” is a mediocre film with very few engaging moments, and the difference in style and quality than Fruit Chan’s latest independent film, “Three Husbands” is so vast, that is very difficult to justify.