review by Neo

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Entertaining yet uninspiring...
Donnie Yen isn’t exactly a fresh face, but with the action starved HK fans, he isn’t half bad and perhaps the most consistent martial arts performer for the last 5 years. With several action director awards under his belt, his signature is written all over the bubble gum action in Twins Effect and the gritty crime in Sha Po Long. Much is expected of Yen and director Wilson Yip, coming off the incredibly well made – Sha Po Long, but one must not forget that the new film - Dragon Tiger Gate is comic book and therefore comparison between the two is rather unfair. Sure, Dragon Tiger Gate is filled with flaws, but at the same time it is comically entertaining without much tension and in a way with lower expectations, it certainly works to some extent.

Wilson Yip have certainly matured as a director and after viewing his resume of films like Bullet Over Summer with stands along with Sha Po Long as one of his best film, he have also created entertaining yet forgettable movies like 2002 and The White Dragon. Perhaps, Yip is in the 2002 mode for this film and the result isn’t half bad. Like all his films, they are extremely well produced and excellently presented. One thing of particular interest is that Yip is very much a character director who attempts to extract a performance from his actors. Louis Koo in Bullet Over Summer, Simon Yam in Sha Po Long and even in lesser flicks – Francis Ng in White Dragon, but with a twist and a turn his attempt in Dragon Tiger Gate is suitably wasted in the form of Donnie Yen. Yen is brilliant fighter and has terrific physical presence, but seriously his attempts at acting are rather bland and forced. While other actors, in scenes such as the swimming pool scene can express a “Great Wall”, Yen expresses nothing other than him being bulky. Of note, the chick in the swimming pool scene is seductively hot from what I remembered and her last impression to Neo is pretty memorable.

The action in the flick isn’t exactly top class, and at times, Shawn Yue and Nick Tse seems suitably more concerned with their weird hairdos than the actual action moves. For non-fighters, they did a pretty credible job, but pales in comparison with some brutal trademark kicks and physical presence of Yen. I don’t know if it is just me, but to me, Yen’s action directing seems the same in every movie and at times his trademark double kick seems more cliché than freshness. However, the last fight with Yen and the masked guy is of the best in recent years and definitely extremely entertaining to watch.

Nick Tse is an actor that Neo praised in a number of movies with some good comic touches in most notably New Police Story and The Promise. Here, Tse doesn’t do much either than act cool or let his hairdo do all the talking. In a way it is a wasted performance and like wise, Shawn Yue’s hair does more than his needless performance. It is disappointing to realize that Shawn, whose potential is seen in Jiang Hu, is only given more than an extended cameo performance with Yen given the center of attention. As mentioned above, Yen is not much of an actor and his attempts at acting are even more laughable than Jackie Chan trying to be serious. It seems that Yen is now trying out to become a romantic lead, with a sexually daring performance in Seven Swords and now a romantic lead in Dragon Tiger Gate. Really, Yen isn’t convincing, but whatever he lacks in character, he redeems himself with fists and kicks. Of the three action heavy weights, Chan, Yen and Li, Neo can be save to say that Jet Li is by far the best actor out of the pack.

Dragon Tiger Gate is all in all a fun, entertaining yet rather forgettable flick. While I may seem to be contradicting myself, but for a Yip’s film it just isn’t up to scratch. The plot seems thin and the comic book isn’t exactly tense, but the real downside is really the action. While it is still leaps above the state of HK cinema, it is in no standing to rival neither the action quality of Fearless nor the brutal feel of Sha Po Long. However, with all being said, Dragon Tiger Gate is by no means crap and in fact it can even be considered as a success as it reaches it ultimate aim of being entertaining. With lower expectations and defying the fact that Wilson Yip is the director or Donnie Yen trying to act, this movie can be pretty adequately fun to watch, but that’s about it…

I rate it 7.75/10.

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Genre: Comic/ Action/ Romance
Director: Wilson Yip
Cast: Donnie Yen. Shawn Yue, Nick Tse
Reviewed by Andrew (Neo), October 2006