Movie Review: March 1993

Movie Reviews: Dragon Inn


The latest from Hong Kong action maestro Tsui Hark is a beautiful piece of cinema that melds its diverse elements into a lightning-paced costume drama as audacious as it is entertaining. Dragon Inn is a wild ride; a bizarre action comedy chronicling the joys of cannibalism, political activism, Kung fu fighting and the entrepreneurial spirit of 12th century China.

The action takes place in a boarded inn run by beautiful but deadly Jade King (Maggie Cheung), a woman so dedicated to the principleDragon Inn - Movie Review: March 1993 of turning a profit that she includes a mystery ingredient into the popular meat pies served at her establishment. Her life becomes complicated when a group of rebels headed by the equally beautiful and dangerous Brigitte Lin (Peking Opera Blues) takes refuge at her inn. They are hiding out from a group of elitist eunuchs who also show up, paving the way for several mind-blowing fight scenes in which the warriors fly through the air battling each other with an array of outrageous weapons.

In one incredible sequence Linn and Cheung (The Killer) leap, flip and spin over beds, rafters and through roof skylights while trying to disrobe one another. Unlike American action fare involving battling females, these women invoke an amazing sense of power while remaining totally feminine. Dragon Inn definitely bears the stamp of Tsui Hark’s production company Film Workshop, the studio responsible for superior Hong Kong movies such as John Woo’s The Killer. Ching Siu-Tung’s A Chinese Ghost Story and Hark’s own Peking Opera Blues and the outstanding Once Upon A Time In China series.

As a producer, writer and director, Hark is the filmmaker most responsible for the sudden reemergence of Hong Kong cinema in the world marketplace. Dragon Inn is a prime example of Hark’s impeccable skill producer—the film is directed by veteran wushu production designer Raymond Lee. The inn acts as a wonderful set for over-the-edge drama to unfold. The sizzling fight sequence, at once wondrous and ludicrous, transform Dragon Inn from a mere historical melodrama into a delirious fantasy populated by mythical super warriors. Utilizing rapid edits and wire affects, the exhilarating kung fu battles push the envelope of action drama with breathless staging and execution.

Dragon Inn is a far cry from the shoddy kung fu productions that flooded American drive-ins in the 70s in the wake of Bruce Lee‘s phenomenal box office success. This is the work of a filmmaker in complete control of the medium, hell bent on using every bit of his considerable cinematic talent to entertain.

Check out more from the SLUG Archives:
Movies Reviews: February 1993
The Malady of Immortality: Bram Stroker’s Dracula