MANGA IN MOTION -
three DVD collection.
Here, Sam Hui (star of The Swordsman) plays the sympathetic, titular hero, Yiu Lung, while Maggie Cheung plays the killer's girlfriend, artist Mei. The story opens in Russia - featuring location work in Red Square (a first for Asian cinema) and against the magnificent backdrops of Moscow's underground train station - where Manchurian Yiu Lung is attacked and kidnapped by the leader of the 800 Dragons Society, to be brainwashed by chief bad guy Master of the Dead (Tak Yuen), and sent out to murder yakuza boss Kishudo (Shun Lau). There are many amusing moments in the extensive martial arts training sequence, which strives for action-comedy worthy of Jackie Chan's best yet never quite attains that goal. Yiu Lung's explosive street battle with a mob of yakuza gunmen is exhilarating in its comicbook style, and the famous stuntman Siu Laing Ko expertly supervises a later car chase.
However, Dragon From Russia (aka: Hong qiang fei long), copyrighted as a 2000 (sic) production by the packaging, has a clumsy narrative structure with a confusing number of supporting characters, flashbacks and irrelevant scenes, and its modest budget is clearly outstripped by its genre ambitions. In many ways, the aforementioned Mark Dacascos version has greater production values, and is the superior live-action adaptation. Apart from a decent performance by leading lady Maggie Cheung, Dragon From Russia boasts the presence of gorgeous Carrie Ng in a supporting role as a yakuza gangster's moll, and a brief appearance for Nina Li-chi (a former Miss Asia champion now married to Jet Li) as hit-woman Chime.
This DVD offers a digitally restored anamorphic transfer enhanced for 16:9 TV with Dolby digital 5.1 audio, and a choice of Cantonese (with English subtitles) or English-dubbed versions. Disc extras include: an interview with Clarence Ford, a self-indulgent 'video retro' with Bey Logan and actress Maggie Q, deleted footage, director's commentary track featuring Hong Kong stuntman and film critic Jude Poyer (watch out, Bey Logan... as Poyer talks a little bit slower, and rather more coherently!), and trailers.
Dragon From Russia is also available to buy in a new three-disc DVD collection from Hong Kong Legends called, Manga In Motion [released 29 December], which includes Jackie's Chan's highly amusing City Hunter, and the ultra-violent and gory Story Of Ricky.