Director: Lo Wei
Producer: Hsu Li Hwa
Cast: Jackie Chan, Nora Miao Ke Hsiu, James Tien Chun, Pearl Lin Yin Zhu, Yen Shi Kwan, Ko Keung, Hsu Hsia, Ou-Yang Sha Fei, Chui Yuen, Wong Kwong Yue, Chui Fat, Eagle Han Ying, Peng Kang, Wang Yao, Wong Ching, Lam Ching Ying
Running Time: 92 min
By JJ Hatfield
This is one of Jackie Chan’s early films. It is also one of a handful or so produced and directed by the infamous Lo Wei. It remains a mystery how Lo Wei convinced anyone to give him financial support, especially since he could not transform Jackie into a new Bruce Lee. By this time in Jackie’s career he should have been a star. Lo Wei had no idea how to best use Chan’s talents. He still wanted Bruce Lee, with some Lo Wei humor tossed in.
Out of all the films Jackie did for Lo Wei this is the most straightforward and the most action filled. The story is realistic enough and quite serious. You never see Jackie smile but you do see him kick ass old school style on a whole lot of guys!
The story begins as a martial arts tournament is in process with Tang How-Yuen’s Master Kang (James Tien) After taking on all comers including his best student the Master beats them all. Master Kang is given a sign to declare his championship and he is overwhelmed with good wishes. The sign will be hung over the school entrance. With the tournament over Master Kang insists everyone should stay and partake of food and drink. After all this is a celebration!
Without warning a new arrival Cheung Chien-Kuen (Yam Sai Kuan) storms in and is arrogant and insulting. He insists the sign should come down because he is the best fighter. Everyone says it is too late, the Master reigns supreme but since it is so important Kang agrees to fight him but Cheung attacks without warning and fights as if it were a duel to the death! Everyone is shouting at Cheung to stop including Master Kang. He was not prepared for such a fierce onslaught this was a friendly contest! Master Kang tells Cheung he has won but the evil bastard just keeps beating him without mercy. How-Yuen and the others try to separate the two but are fought by Cheung’s henchmen. Only when it is obvious Master Kang is seriously wounded does Cheung stop. He takes the sign with him when he and his men leave laughing and congratulating Cheung. Master Kang’s wife, daughter and How-Yuen do all they can to heal him but his injuries are too severe. His last words are to How-Yuen. He tells him to train and avenge the school. He also tells him he is charged with taking care of Kang’s wife and daughter.
We next see Cheung being congratulated for his school’s success over the last three years. The school has a good reputation and plenty of students. Though Cheung has attained an honorable status and many students want to train there, everything is coming together perfectly when the Cheungs suffer a terrible tragedy. Cheung’s wife kills herself in the hope her death will make up for her husband’s vicious killing of Master Kang. Cheung’s wife and Master Kang used to see each other but it was long before marriage to Cheung. Still he has always held a grudge and had been planning on killing him for his former relationship with his wife. In emotional agony Cheung amputates his own leg to try and atone for his cruel and jealous deeds.
A number of people including Cheung are suspicious of the wicked Master Wei (Ko Keung) when dead bodies start to appear. Cheung has to get to the bottom of the killings and sends two of his most trusted and skilled students to discover the facts.
In the meantime Wei’s henchmen meet How-Yuen. When the gang starts to harass his two charges it is necessary to defend them. Naturally he dispatches them with quick brutal moves. Once Wei hears about How-Yuen’s amazing martial arts skills he starts to think of someway to get him to work for their gang.
When How-Yuen and Master Kang’s widow and daughter reach Cheung’s school they are treated as guests and escorted to see Cheung. How-Yuen is anxious to do his Master’s bidding and kill the bastard that murdered Master Kang. Just as How-Yuen is about to make mush of his sworn enemy he discovers Cheung has cut off his leg. It doesn’t make any difference to him and he is ready for revenge. How-Yuen only halts after the Mistress pleads with him to stop. He is red hot and ready for vengeance but how can he honorably defeat a one legged man?
With everything that has happened the Mistress falls ill. How-Yuen has her see a doctor who tells How-Yuen that she is very ill and there is only one thing that might help. Master Wei’s family has a unique potion that works like a miracle cure. How-Yuen goes to the Wei family and begs them for the herbal potion. This is just the opportunity Master Wei has been waiting for!
Wei cleverly agrees to give How-Yuen the herbs for his Mistress if he will help the Wei clan and their business. How-Yuen loves the Mistress like his own mother. How can he refuse to work for Wei when he needs the herbal medicine to save her very life?
It becomes obvious before long that the Wei family are all thieves, villains and possibly even murderers. How-Yuen loses face and enrages everyone around him except the Wei school. The so called martial arts school is really just a cover for their devious and deadly dealings. Word quickly spreads of this new gang member and eventually the Mistress learns of his actions. How-Yuen cannot tell her the truth or she would insist he quit working for Wei even though she needs the medicine.
For a Jackie Chan movie this one is really pretty dark. That certainly doesn’t make it a bad film. There is no humor and no one laughs except the cackling villains. Jackie’s facial expression ranges from sorrow to “piss off” and then “Die M—-F——!” It’s terrific! Sometimes you just need to watch the hero beat the hell out of the bad guys and this movie is perfect.
“Dragon Fist” is unique in several ways aside from being a dramatic film. There are no attempts at humor, for which viewers will be eternally grateful! Before How-Yuen goes off for revenge he apparently trains but there are no training scenes. And the story is actually fairly good with plot twists aplenty.
The fantastic finale is fighting on a massive scale. And it isn’t just How-Yuen! The whole screen is filled with fighting – the Cheung family and their school against Wei and his evil gang. There is a wide variety of fighting styles, weapons and even foes as one person goes to help another. How-Yuen is the one doing most of the beating and suffers injuries along the way but he never loses his ferocity or thirst for revenge.
“Dragon Fist” is an excellent old school style film that will keep you guessing while keeping you entertained. Highly Recommended.
JJ Hatfield’s Rating: 8/10
By Alvin George
“Dragon Fist” is yet another deadpan old-school kung-fu movie Jackie Chan made with Lo Wei way back when. For a Lo Wei film, this film has better-than-average plot developments (Jackie actually betrays his late master’s family at one point), better-than-average characters (one villain cuts off his own leg as a penance for his wrongdoing), and better-than-average fight scenes (especially toward the end). However, this film was nevertheless tough sledding for me. The dubbing was sloppy (as usual) and the dialogue was lame (again as usual); perhaps something got lost in the translation. As a Bruce Lee type, Jackie Chan is miscast, as he often was during the 1970s. If you can stand the dubbing and the dialogue, enjoy this movie and especially the fight scenes. As for me, I rather sit through Slayer’s “Show No Mercy” album.
Alvin George’s Rating: 5/10
This movie is based on the old (and much overused) ‘you killed my master, now you must die’ plot. But the movie offers enough plot twists to keep the average viewer mildly interested (if not confused). I must admit that I got a little confused at one point (I blame it on the bad dubbing). In the end, all questions are answered and it’s time for Jackie to kick some ass.
Jackie Chan plays a serious role, so there is none of the famous Chan comedy. The real reason to watch the movie is for the fighting. The choreography is fast and elegant (especially at the end). The fighting alone makes it worth a watch. I recommend double featuring this with ‘Young Master.’ Both have excellent (but different) fight choreography. One is serious, the other is down-right goofy. Regardless, if you’re a Chan fan, check it out!
T-Man’s Rating: 8/10
You can’t get much more serious than this among Jackie Chan movies. Dragon Fist has a good plot (when compared to his other movies). There are a couple of well choreographed fights, especially at the end. On a lighter note, the background music and some of the scenery (especially during a fight where Chung Chu Ping tells Chan to stop fighting) is very lovely. Although I like Chan’s comedic movies better, this movie was thoroughly enjoyed by this Chan fan!
Tigerlily’s Rating: 7/10
Lo Wei takes the standard “You killed my teacher/family member/best friend/boy-toy, now you must die” theme a step further with this one. It was the first oldie I saw starring JC and is still probably my favorite. The deceased master has a widow and daughter who accompany Jackie in his search for the killer. He gets involved with his target’s rival gang, which is run by three brothers who are a little too close if you ask me (I’m convinced they’re up each other when the camera’s not on them). The fighting is spread kinda thin, up until the excellent 15-minute finale, which features an incredibly long armed duel between Jackie (with a crutch) and…another guy (using a pair of tonfa).
Another major highlight is when Jackie re-starts the interrupted brawling by punching the most annoying villain about 50 times in 14 seconds. And, in the nifty ideas department, there’s a master who refuses to let the fact that he only has one leg keep him from joining the festivites. On the down side, none of the humor in this movie is intentional (gotta love that dubbing…”You’re a viscous, stinking BUNCH!!!”). Still, if a group of Iraqi terrorists strap you down and force you to watch a Lo Wei movie of your own choosing, you could very easily do worse than Dragon Fist.
Numskull’s Rating: 7/10