Yellow Dragon (Japan 2003)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/9/16
Action Director: Philip Kwok
Cast: Maki Miyamoto, Yasuaki Kurata, Wai Man Chan

A dangerous drug called Yellow Dragon can increase a person's strength by four times, but taking it is fatal. The only antidote for its poisonous effects is an antibody that a young woman named Jun Nagase (spunky Maki Miyamoto) might possess. As a result, the bad guys relentlessly pursue her, while a mysterious man named Gou Azuma (Yasuaki Kurata) repeatedly rescues her. Jun has a lot of anger issues and likes to destroy everything in sight. She's also quite fond of groin kicks, and delivers no fewer than six of them over the course of the film. Jun eventually learns to trust Gou and he teaches her how to fight, but this happy respite doesn't last long before the villains raid Gou's hideout in full force.

It's not a good movie, but seeing Yasuaki Kurata in action is always a treat. At 57 years old he can still put up a good fight, and his power, grace, and agility remain impressive. Maki Miyamoto is cute and full of attitude, and her action scenes are quite enjoyable. One of the film's highlights is a fight between her and a Chinese policewoman in a men's bathroom. Unfortunately, the film is riddled with poorly realized digital effects (including a hilariously gratuitous decapitation), and the wirework is embarrassingly awful. As a contemporary action film, there's no place for extreme jumping and flying around, and it just ends up looking silly and unnecessary. Along the same lines, there's also a tunneling ninja scene, which is awkwardly out of place. The music is nice, but often feels inappropriate for what's on the screen. The cinematography is decent, and the film utilizes its Chinese locations to good effect. It's just unfortunate that the film can't escape its B-movie trappings.