Dragon Inn

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“Flying remake kicks up a sand-storm, Brigitte Lin in drag again.”

Eunuchs are always trouble. Here, in the Ming Dynasty, they’ve reduced the Emperor to a puppet, and are close to wiping out all opposition. The last rebel leader Chow (Leung) is on his way to a meeting with his subordinate Yau (Lin) at Dragon Inn, a venue in the middle of nowhere owned by Jade (Cheung), a woman whose interests include sex, bounty hunting, and spicy meat buns of dubious content. However, also waiting for him are government forces. And when the rain comes down – which it does with surprising venom for a location supposedly in the middle of a desert – no-one gets to leave…

There’s a lot to enjoy here, particularly Maggie Cheung’s performance, which is excellent. Her character pivots the film, with the other forces too well-balanced to prevail on their own – the sparring and negotiation means there’s more tension and less fighting than might be expected. The action is good (perhaps most memorably, the Yau-Jade duel where they manage to swap clothes), but it seems as if the camera is often half a step behind; even the wide-screen DVD doesn’t seem big enough. There always seems to be a sandstorm, or something else, stopping the martial arts from fulfilling their potential. Donnie Yen as the Chief Eunuch is also wasted, in a way more common in his Western movies – he vanishes for the middle 70 minutes; Yau, too, takes a back seat once Chow arrives on the scene.

Still, the finale is excellent, with the deciding player not perhaps being who you’d expect, and as a whole, the film is a more than entertaining entry into the flying swordplay genre.

Dir: Raymond Lee
Star: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Brigitte Lin, Donnie Yen

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