Dragon (2011)

Dragon (2011)

Sherlock Holmes meets martial arts master in this exciting, genre-mixing action mystery

7.1

Movie

China, Hong Kong
Mandarin
Action, Drama, Thriller
2011
PETER CHAN
Donnie Yen, Ethan Juan, Hua Yan
115 min

TLDR

Okay, but maybe if you didn’t wade into your crime scene and slurp the river water and attack the town hero, people might take your detective work more seriously.

What it's about

China, July 1917. Liu Jinxi has forged a new, more peaceful life as a family man and papermaker. However, his past resurfaces when determined detective Xu Baijiu suspects that Liu is more than what meets the eye.

The take

Being named after the genre, Wu xia, the title replaced in English as Dragon, would understandably follow its conventions with dramatic action in ancient China. The plot roughly follows a typical wuxia thread, where a hidden master is revealed, leading to plenty of exciting adventures, and they seek justice in order to return to a state of peace. But the way Dragon approaches this plot is exciting, as the film mixes in the investigation of a murder mystery, with a determined detective suspecting the master through his knowledge of the body, through an eclectic mix of forensics, medicine, and Qi acupuncture. And as the detective is consistently challenged by the former fighter, it’s clear how difficult it can be to master the body, especially after going through trauma and violence and self-doubt. The threads in the film are familiar, but Dragon understands what makes these threads work, and the way these are woven together makes for a good movie to watch.

What stands out

The film easily shifts from genre to genre in such an abrupt way that makes it feel unpredictable. From questioning a suspect, to animated sequences of acupuncture, to randomly sung admonishments to Xu, these scenes make the action feel much more than just cool-looking sequences, grounding each fight with the varying knowledge levels and beliefs of the characters.

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