Dragon Tiger Gate (HK 2006)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/18/10
Director: Wilson Yip
Action Director: Donnie Yen
Music: Kenji Kawai
Cast: Donnie Yen, Nicolas Tse, Shawn Yue, Yuen Wah, Dong Jie, Li Xiaoram

A fun and enjoyable fantasy action film based on a Japanese martial arts manga. Dragon (Donnie Yen) and Tiger (Nicolas Tse) are two brothers who grow up at Dragon Gate Inn. Dragon and his mother leave the gate at a young age, and Dragon is eventually adopted by a crime lord named Kua. At the beginning of the movie, Tiger and Dragon run into each other again after many years, and an incident at a floating restaurant sets a violent sequence of events in motion. Putting aside their differences and personal demons, Tiger and Dragon reunite along with a brash young fighter named Turbo (Shawn Yue) to avenge themselves against the dark and villainous Shibumi.

The film is extremely colorful, and the sets and art direction are absolutely gorgeous. Kenji Kawai's anime inspired music score fits the look and feel perfectly. Donnie Yen's action choreography remains fairly ground-based, but also favors the exaggerated power and movements that you would expect from a comic book. Unfortunately, there's a little too much digital trickery going on for my tastes, which is a constant visual distraction. The cinematography is quite good for the most part, but some of the camera movements and wipes are way too extreme. The acting is very good, and charming Nicolas Tse is always a treat to watch. He even gets to show off some impressive stunt work, and his moves are quite graceful and convincing. Dong Jie plays the young and innocent love interest, and her performance is the most intense and heartbreaking of them all. Donnie Yen gives an excellent physical performance, but looks uncomfortable in his wig and out of place with all of the youngsters in the cast. The film starts strong and ends with an over-the-top fight scene, but the middle is bogged down with way too much drama. However, it's nice to see someone other than Andrew Lau attempting to work in this genre, and I think this film surpasses similar fare.