Issues with pacing and an uninspiring narrative means that martial arts thriller Dragon fails to pack a punch.
In a small village in 1917 China, Liu Jinxi, a paper maker is a bystander in a local store when two gangsters come in an attempt to rob the shopkeeper. Liu Jinxi intervenes to protect the shopkeeper and his wife. The resulting investigation reveals things about Liu Jinxi’s past that he would rather forget…
The premise of Peter Chan’s Dragon is remarkably similar to David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence. The setting and circumstances are different, but otherwise Dragon is very reminiscent of Cronenberg’s film.
Dragon, however, suffers from poor pacing. The film takes a while to get going, and when it does it fails to build sufficiently to the conclusion. The climax is a let down, even with a tepid build up.
The mystery aspect of Dragon works quite well. The ambiguity is effective until everything is unravelled in one short scene. Motivations of the investigator are played up, and then forgotten until the very end. This element needed a bit more depth. Moreover, there is a lack of character development which makes it difficult for viewers to care much about the fate of the main characters. The antagonist is rather a caricature.
The action sequences in Dragon are well choreographed. Production design is good, as is the cinematography with some nice shots. The reenactment of events and slow-motion replays are redolent of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Homes films. There is not really a need to show every bit of graphic violence, but the film persists with this. This results in some inauthentic-looking CGI effects, which takes viewers out of the action.
Some well-choreographed fight scenes are not enough to save Dragon. The film ultimately needed more originality to its plot and more of a rhythm in terms of pacing.