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Issue #152 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES March 24th, 2003

Flying Dragon, Leaping Tiger
(2001; Golden Sun Films Co.)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Lung tung fu yuek
Mandarin: Long teng hu yue
English: Dragon Soaring, Tiger Leaping

Twenty years after their infant son perished as a result of associate Kiu Hung's treachery, powerful swordswoman Liu Lu-yien (Cheng Pei-pei) and horse thief Luk Ching-yang (Sammo Hung Kam-po) reunite for the first time at an isolated inn. Ching-yang broke his promise to leave the martial world behind and, in order to try and make amends, he sets out to find their daughter, Liu Yun-long (Jade Leung Ching). In the meantime, Lu-yien sets out for Mount Tien, in order to exact vengeance on Hung but a debilitating internal ailment forces the woman to pass this quest on to her formidable pupil, Pak Siu-fu (Fan Siu-wong, billed here as Louis Fan). Ching-yang eventually locates Yun-long and discovers that she possesses a wild spirit but great martial talent. Hung's son, Kiu Chen-yu, is determined to eliminate anyone who might threaten his father, so Ching-yang decides that the best course is to meet the elder Kiu alone. However, subsequent events subvert Ching-yang's goal of settling the matter without excessive bloodshed.

This production has been a source of speculation and curiosity since the day it was first announced. Based on the title alone, some surmised that the film might be a send-up of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON; as it turns out, there is very little humor at all in the picture. The presence of Cheng Pei-pei in the cast and the obvious duplication of the CTHD poster also made it seem like this was a direct ripoff of the Ang Lee movie, which is not really true either. When Miramax revealed that they had bought the non-Asian rights, it was thought the movie might garner an American theatrical release. However, that notion was soon quashed by Harvey Weinstein, who announced that he had picked up FLYING DRAGON, LEAPING TIGER for the sole purpose of keeping it off the U.S. market. Evidently, he felt the picture would somehow impact on the success of Zhang Yimou's HERO, a far more expensive and prestigious effort largely financed by Miramax. It would seem that Weinstein made his decision without bothering to actually watch this minor production, the U.S. potential of which can be measured by the fact that it went direct-to-video in HK after spending over a year on the shelf.

Few would deny that FLYING DRAGON, LEAPING TIGER is heavily flawed but it is also not as bad as that spotty distribution record suggests. While certainly not in league with the work of Tony Ching Siu-tung or Yuen Woo-ping, the gravity-free combat here is fairly well done and approximates the exhilaration generated by the best of the New Wave period fantasies. The storyline has all of the necessary ingredients and the leads are solid but, in the end, Allen Lan Hai-han's unimaginative direction leaves the film seeming almost as arid as the Mainland desert locales where it unfolds. Melodrama is plentiful but genuine emotions are not, leaving the relationships hollow and the central conflict largely colourless. The production is also afflicted with the curse of many a HK film these days, cheapjack CGI (the jaw droppingly unconvincing destruction of a stone tower, an attempt to show dozens of horses in one scene by simply duplicating the same one over and over, the destruction wrought by a cartoonish twister, etc); at least the wire removal is competently handled. The lack of sync sound is also a debit, as the voices in the Cantonese version are not always suitable (Cheng Pei-pei, at least, did her own looping on the Mandarin track). In the end, period fantasy addicts starved for new product will likely be the most receptive audience for this marginal effort, which also features Cheng's real-life daughter, Eugenia Yuan Lai-kei, in a supporting role as Yun-long's aide.

Cover art courtesy Deltamac.

From right to left: Jade Leung, Sammo Hung and Eugenia Yuan. Image courtesy Deltamac.

Fan Siu-wong. Image courtesy Deltamac.

Jade Leung Ching. Image courtesy Deltamac.
Deltamac #DVD88126 (HK label)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Cantonese, Mandarin, and Thai Language Tracks (all post-synced)

9 Chapters Illustrated in Menu With (Tiny) Clips

Letterboxed (1.75:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

97 Minutes

Contains moderate martial arts and swordplay violence

DVD menu courtesy Deltamac.

Singapore: PG

The image is a bit bland and grainy at times, and contrasts are occasionally harsh during daytime exteriors, resulting in some blown out skyscapes. That said, colors are generally attractive and the presentation is sufficient overall. The sound mix is uninspired and rather brittle, lacking the sort of dynamic presence that would really enhance the action (the Thai version is especially bad). The only extra is a Mandarin trailer.

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