Today’s flick is an obscure martial arts / snooker comedy starring Stephen Chow: “Legend of the Dragon.”
“Legend of the Dragon” was produced and directed by the actor Danny Lee, who appeared in such films as “City on Fire” and John Woo’s “The Killer.” As a director, Lee primarily made action movies like “Dr. Lamb,” but drifted into the realm of comedy with “Legend of the Dragon” and “The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story.”
“Legend of the Dragon” was written by Kam Fai-Law, a frequent collaborator with Danny Lee (“Dr. Lamb,” “The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story”), and a man named James Fung, who received story credit.
The editor for “Legend of the Dragon” was Chung Yiu Ma, who also cut such films as “From Beijing With Love,” “Butterfly & Sword,” and “Flying Dagger.”
The two stunt coordinators for “Legend of the Dragon” were Corey Yuen, who provided stunts for “Drunken Master,” “The Expendables,” and “Transporter 3” (and even directed “The Transporter” and “No Retreat, No Surrender”), and Wah Yuen, who worked on “The Way of the Dragon,” “The Chinese Connection,” and “Enter the Dragon.”
The cast of “Legend of the Dragon” is headlined by Stephen Chow (“Shaolin Soccer,” “Kung Fu Hustle,” “The God of Cookery,” “From Beijing With Love,” “Sixty Million Dollar Man,” “Fight Back To School”), and also features Teresa Mo (“Hard Boiled,” “Men Suddenly In Black”), Chi Ling Chiu (“Kung Fu Hustle,” “Journey to the West”), Ka-Yan Leung (“The Man With The Iron Fists”), and Wah Yuen (“City Under Siege,” “Australia,” “Game of Death”).
The plot of “Legend of the Dragon” centers around the popular game of ‘snooker,’ which isn’t particularly well-known in the United States. For those curious, here is the summary of the game from Wikipedia:
Snooker is a cue sport played on a table covered with a green cloth or baize, with pockets at each of the four corners and in the middle of each of the long side cushions. A full-size table measures 11 ft 81⁄2 in × 5 ft 10 in (3569 mm x 1778 mm), commonly referred to as 12 × 6 ft.
The game is played using a cue and 22 snooker balls: one white cue ball, 15 red balls worth one point each, and six balls of different colours: yellow (2 points), green (3), brown (4), blue (5), pink (6) and black (7). The red balls are initially placed in a triangular formation, and the other coloured balls on marked positions on the table known as “spots”. Players execute shots by striking the cue ball with the cue, causing the cue ball to hit a red or coloured ball. Points are scored by sinking the red and coloured balls (knocking them into the pockets, called “potting”) in the correct sequence. A player receives additional points if the opponent commits a foul. A player (or team) wins a frame (individual game) of snooker by scoring more points than the opponent(s). A player wins a match when a predetermined number of frames have been won.
Snooker, generally regarded as having been invented in India by British Army officers, is popular in many of the English-speaking and Commonwealth countries, with top professional players attaining multi-million-pound career earnings from the game. The sport is now increasingly popular in China. Touring professional players compete regularly around the world, the premier tournament being the World Championship, held annually in Sheffield, England.
As mentioned in the Wikipedia summary, “Legend of the Dragon” was made in the midst of the growing popularity of snooker in China, which has continued in the years since the movie’s release.
“Legend of the Dragon” features a cameo from Jimmy White, a world champion snooker player and dominant force in the game throughout the 1980s, who acts as the final challenger Stephen Chow must defeat to win the tournament.
“Legend of the Dragon” is a pretty obscure flick, and doesn’t have a whole lot of reviews because of it. However, the ones that are out there are relatively positive: it currently has a 58% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.5 rating on IMDb.
“Legend of the Dragon” is primarily a slapstick physical comedy, but Stephen Chow sells the humor with boundless enthusiasm as his man-child character. What would be painfully hack-y with a different cast comes off as mildly charming with Stephen Chow at the head.
Given the experience of the director and the cast, it is no surprise that “Legend of the Dragon” features good fight choreography and action sequences. Even the snooker sequences are shot with a fair amount of tension, making something that is generally mundane anything but.
There is an interesting undertone of anti-capitalism throughout “Legend of the Dragon,” with much of the plot centering on the condemnation of gambling and profiteering. However, the ending is less clear on the point, with gambling ultimately saving the day, and compromises of traditional values being reached. There is definitely a message in the story about the cultural divide between mainland China and Hong Kong, particularly as the once-distant year of 1997 began coming closer, which would bring the highly independent and westernized island back under the fold of Chinese authority. The tensions between the comically traditional Master Chow and his material-obsessed brother plays to this divide, and their ultimate reconciliation and compromise give the conflict a peaceful resolution in the end.
“Legend of the Dragon” features a couple of really funny moments. For instance, after the climactic kiss, both characters instantly think they are pregnant. It is a great little stab at the sheltered, naive characters that always seem to feature in kung fu flicks. There are also a number of good jokes pointed at the fact that no one knows the rules to snooker, most memorably after the protagonist and his friends celebrate their victory in the final tournament before the match is actually over.
Overall, “Legend of the Dragon” is a strange but fun little movie, with some deep undertones beneath a veneer of childish physical humor. It isn’t particularly easy to find, but it is worth checking out for kung fu fans if you happen to come across it.
Given the film’s obscurity, you might be a little as to how I came across this oddball little flick. Video Central, the local video store that provides my Clerk’s Picks, was recently clearing out some excess inventory, and I picked it up from them for a couple of bucks based on the distinctive cover art on the DVD. I assumed that there had to be something worth watching inside, and thankfully I was right.