Action Movie Fanatix Review: Legend of the Red Dragon

Legend of the Red Dragon banner

The Epic Story Of A Man Who Challenged The Limits Of Courage And Fought For The Heart Of A Nation.

Starring: Jet Li, Yau Shuk Ching, Deanie Ip, Tse Miiu, Chen Sung Yung, Kai Chun Wah, Lau Chung Yan, Chu Ko Liang, Johnny Wang, Yeung Wai, Sun Koom Nam, Fu Yu, Kwan Pang, Wang Chi Fei

Director: Wong Jing

1994  |  83 Minutes  |  Rated R

“Can you help me get these stains out of my dad’s underwear?” – Ting

This is the second time I have purchased Jet Li’s Legend of the Red Dragon.  The first time I couldn’t even make it through a single watch.  To say I had low expectations for this viewing would be an understatement.  I forged ahead and was actually a little bit surprised with what I found.

When Kwon’s (Jet Li) entire village, including his wife, is brutally murdered by evil Manchu soldiers, he sets out on a mission of vengeance with the only survivor of this massacre – his young son Ting.

The opening moments of Legend of the Red Dragon are bizarre to say the least.  Kwon lets his baby decide its own fate.  If the child walks to the sword, he will join his dad on his quest for vengeance.  If the child walked to his rocking horse, Kwon would “send his son to be with his mother.”  That’s right.  If the baby walked to its toy, the dad would murder it so he could go on his bloody mission rather than raise his son.  Apparently these were the only two options.

Right after this we are taken to a shot of a monk tattooing a treasure map onto the backs of five of his young students, essentially making them targets for the evil dudes.  This time in China doesn’t seem to be a very friendly time for children.  We’re not off to a very good start, Legend of the Red Dragon.

On the plus side, we only have to wait about three minutes before we hit the first fight.  And with Jet Li involved, the martial arts are top notch.  This opening scene, though, has him flinging his infant son around like a rag doll while he battles a traitorous former friend.

After this, the movie actually jumps forward a few years.  Ting is now a school age boy with serious martial arts skills of his own.  Watching him was almost as fun as watching Jet Li.

The fights bounce between being pretty decent and being overly silly with far too liberal use of bad wirework in between.  The crazy long spear (technical term) work by Jet Li and his young co-star is quite impressive though.

At times the movie tries to Jackie Chanify Jet Li, dropping him into comedic spots he was not ready for.  Jackie Chan is just a funnier personality than Jet Li is.  Directors need to push these guys to their strong suits, not try to make them something they’re not.  As a result the attempted comedy rarely lands.

It wasn’t perfect but Legend of the Red Dragon was way better than I had remembered.  It suffered from being too silly when it didn’t intend to be and not funny at all when it was trying to be.  I actually think it was made to be some sort of weird bloody violent kids martial arts movie.  Sorta like what we would have if Mr. Miagi killed a bunch of dudes in the Karate Kid.  The idea seems really odd and I’d probably never show it to anyone young enough to laugh at the humor but it’s at least worth watching for a few of the fights… especially considering the super short run time.

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