Above Photo: Thai release of Fist of The Dragon (C) 2014
Fist of the Dragon is Roger Corman's first production in Asia concentrating exclusively on a martial arts theme. Director Antony Szeto crafts a full force action film on a limited budget. Reminiscent of a 90s HK martial arts showcase, with enough modern elements to bring new viewers aboard.
Fist of the Dragon opens with lead actor and MMA star Josh Thomson as Damon meeting up with Meili played by Juju Chan (Check Interview with Juju @ http://dansmoviereport.blogspot.com/2014/08/actress-juju-chan-interview-exclusive-c.html ) Because the two met online, there first meeting was at a restaurant. Meili is a shy quiet demure lady in Fist Of The Dragon, Damon is a MMA fighter who lost his last fight just wanting to start over with a new life.
At the same restaurant the two are in, a shady deal is going down to smuggle weapon triggers in of all things, Mooncakes! No this is not a spoiler, the Mooncakes are totally the main focus in Fist Of The Dragon. No not the crappy US knock offs, but the real ones, check Wiki for reference @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mooncake . The action in Fist Of The Dragon. begins when the over zealous waiter inadvertently gives Damon the Mooncakes to bring to Meili at her apartment
In Fist Of The Dragon, one never knows who to trust. Even the cops in the film are on the take, they too are out for the Mooncakes. Twists and turns, fights, and more fights, Fist of The Dragon delivers exactly what is promised, a full force action film with diverse characters who are as colorful as the action!
Josh Thompson is amazing as a fighter, and seems to be integrating some of his newly minted acting skills into the fold. His character Damon plays like the reluctant hero, never wanting to really get involved, but once in the fray he seems to dive in full force to get results.
Above Pic: villain Maria Tran as 'Zhen' is ready to um, er, ah, torture, yeah I will go with torture, sweet 'Meili' Juju Chan. Not sure what is more deadly, the blue flip phone, knife or tongue, yeah I went there!
Juju Chan plays the damsel in distress, and this is truly literal. she is quiet, reserved, and very shy. Obviously to have a long career, it is important to stretch your acting range, portray characters exactly opposite of your persona. Meili is a simple office worker, who is caught up in the action as a hostage, when the Mooncakes are stolen. Juju is an action force whirlwind, but in Fist The Dragon, her acting chops are tested further that her actual chops. Juju also serves as the film's associate producer and casting person.
Maria Tran, plays a bad girl, with extreme zeal, hurling vituperates, and flailing fists at the drop of a hat. Maria is a natural. Her facial expressions and emotions seethe with energy, and never appear forced. Her portrayal of Zhen ranges from controlled quiet, when she is posing as a maid, to extreme maniacal violence, when she has to fight. Maria has intellect, and creativity in all aspects of film making and production, check out my review of her short film Hit Girls @ http://dansmoviereport.blogspot.com/2014/07/hit-girls-movie-review-short-film.html
Newcomer Ellary Porterfield plays Cassie. Her role is pivotal to the story, so no spoilers! Ellary is a good actress, and gets a bit in on the action, watch for her character later in the film.
Above Pic: Ellary and Juju look a bit tired after a tussle. Quick off to hair and make-up haha! (C) 2013 New Horizons Pictures
Finally, and most importantly, director Antony Szeto and fight choreographer Trung Ly weave an entertaining, edge of the rail action film. Everything is relative, judging a 100 million dollar action film on the same scale as a Corman film is obviously not realistic, but Fist Of The Dragon makes the most of the settings, cast, and fight locations. In Asia, action is more of a priority that in the US film market. In addition, Fist Of The Dragon compares to Hong Kong films of the 90s more than anything else. Antony wears many hats in Fist of The Dragon, ranging from acting to editing, as often the case in lower budget films. Anthony is given much creative control. Not many Corman films come in without nudity, and this fact allows Fist Of The Dragon to never slow down pace wise from the very beginning.
Above Pic: The Chef played by veteran action star Kwong-Keung Kong prepares to do unthinkable things with a deli meat slicer and various knives haha! (C) 2013 New Horizons Pictures
My only minor gripe is that the film is a tad to short, at under 85 minutes from beginning to credits close. I am sure that this is a necessary budget constraint. Fist of The Dragon would definitely benefit from more of a set up do to the copious amount of bad guys, and a bit of the background on the main protagonist characters. Even 5-7 more minutes would not only flesh out the story, but help the audience feel connected to the participants.
Above Pic: Josh Thomson as Damon never wants a fight, but seems to find many in Fist Of The Dragon. (C) 2013 New Horizons Pictures.
Ending on a positive note, the fight scenes in Fist Of The Dragon are creative and entertaining. Paying homage to classic HK films and Don "The Dragon" Wilson work of the 90s' while adding innovation, Trung Ly and Antony, know the angles to not only do the fight scenes, but to properly light them, and film them, and edit them, so the audience is engaged, and not left out of the action. The close quarter action sequences remind me of some of sequences in 'The Bourne Identity' films.
As a lover of off the wall, bat $h*t crazy action, I give Fist Of The Dragon a rousing 8.5 out of 10. I must say, finally, I will probably be leery of trusting a hotel maid again HAHA!, thanks Maria Tran, you are a spirited yet adorable violent one!
For more information on Fist Of The Dragon go to the official FB page: @ https://www.facebook.com/fistofthedragonmovie
Order the film from Thailand @ http://www.ethaicd.com/show.php?pid=80125