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February 5th, 2001 Issue #49

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

Millennium Dragon
(1999; Pro Film): 2/10

Cover art courtesy Widesight.

Hung cheung do ying

Hong qiang dao ying

Red Square Thieves

Yuen Biao (left) and Ben Ng Ngai-cheung (right). Image courtesy Widesight.

While it left much to be desired as a movie, one of the main pleasures to be had from A MAN CALLED HERO was the inclusion of Yuen Biao in a supporting role. While Jackie Chan achieved new heights of stardom in the late 90s, Ah Biao found himself cast in pictures more and more unworthy of his talents. Sammo Hung squandering his talents in the abysmal MARTIAL LAW series was depressing enough but one can only wonder how "third brother" must have felt stuck in swill like TOUGH BEAUTY AND THE SLOPPY SLOP and THE HAUNTED HUNTER. Unfortunately, MILLENNIUM DRAGON continues this sad pattern, thanks to a ludicrous storyline, poor production, and the consistently deadly hand of former kung fu star turned hack director, Phillip Ko Fei (who also has a supporting role here).

Charlie Cho Cha-lei (left) and Chin Siu-ho (right). Image courtesy Widesight.

Gangster Cho Dai-foo (Charlie Cho Cha-lei) makes a deal to buy a priceless antique from Mongolian bandit Hon Fok-fui (Chin Siu-ho), who sends his sister, Hon May-ching (a scowling Lily Chung Suk-wai, who gets second billing despite having little to do) to Russia to deliver it. She gives the item to Cho's goons (Hugo Ng Toi-yung and Johnny Wang Lung-wei) but it is almost instantly stolen by partners Ma Sar (Yuen Biao) and Chui Jor-yin, who then present it to their antique dealer boss.

Johnny Wang Lung-wei and Hugo Ng Toi-yung. Image courtesy Widesight.

Hon journeys to Russia himself with a new offer for Cho: the Millenia Luminant Pearl (sic), which possesses magical properties. Cho has wanted it for a long time and had a team of men (led by William Ho Kar-kui) searching for it, under the guise of being in Mongolia to produce a movie. Hon demands in exchange a computer chip, which is desired by the North Korean government and can vastly increase their military capability. When Ma is killed by a car bomb, Chui starts romancing beautiful Korean pianist Sonia but he has competition from Michael Yang (Ben Ng Ngai-cheung), an agent for the Chinese government posing as another antiques dealer. Chui is actually an agent himself for South Korea and, upon reporting back to headquarters for instructions, learns that Ma is not only still alive but also a compatriot of Yang. Chui has managed to curry favour with Hon and is able to come and go from the latter's homebase, which allows him to help Yang escape, when the latter is captured on the premises. When Hon makes off with both the pearl and Sonia, the three agents follow him back to Mongolia for a final showdown.

Lily Chung Suk-wai, Chin Siu-ho, and Charlie Cho (left to right). Image courtesy Widesight.

Set predominantly in a Moscow where everyone speaks Cantonese, MILLENNIUM DRAGON makes little sense and even falls short in the action department, the one area where Ko's movies usually deliver (albeit on a quantity over quality level). The cinematography is terrible, failing utterly to take advantage of interesting locations and interiors, and the 1970s stock music rarely suits what is transpiring. It appeared Yuen Biao worked on the film for only a few days as his character disappears from the narrative for long stretches at a time. The ending is espcially stupid but, chances are, if you actually make it that far, this will hardly come as a surprise. Bryan Leung Kar-yan (looking a lot like Roy Chiao Hung these days) appears briefly and Charlie Cho and William Ho also served as the movie’s associate producers. Fans of Yuen Biao can take some solace in the fact that their hero will appear (along with Sammo Hung) in the big-budget feature THE LEGEND OF TEKKEN later this year and one hopes that it will lead to some better projects for both.

DVD Specs:

Widesight #WSDVD-1153
Dolby Digital (5.1)
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Permanent Subtitles In English and Chinese
6 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Clips
Letterboxed (1.60:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
Category IIB (for mid-range violence)
93 Minutes

DVD Menu courtesy Widesight.

If the movie is terrible, then the presentation is hideous though, in all fairness, some of the flaws hail from the original production and not the video transfer. The picture is downright blurry at times, with bleached colors throughout and weak contrasts, while whites also bloom severely, causing the theatrical subtitles to frequently disappear into white clothes and backgrounds. Smearing and displacement are common in a good portion of the running time and the 5.1 options just spread the mono mix over additional channels (both versions of the film are post-synched by performers other than the actors). Most of the end crawl has been deleted, probably with the thinking that no one would want to bother wasting another second of their lives on this junk. The disc comes packaged in a jewel case and offers no extras.

Lily Chung. Image courtesy Widesight.

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review