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Hong Kong Legends unleash yet another great DVD, this time the superb and fully action-packed Jackie Chan spectacle Dragons Forever. Jackie Chan has become this sort of iconic worldwide film legend since his massive Hollywood debut. He’s the guy who can slap a cheesy smile on your face, the guy who can do unimaginable stunts the likes of which you’ve never seen before, and the guy who also had a hugely successful career in Hong Kong before he hit the sunny shores of the US. Here we see him at his very best (and fastest)…

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Movie
When some deadly chemicals begin to poison the local environment (a fish farm to be precise) Jackie Lung (Jackie Chan) steps in as the hot-shot lawyer hired by the plant to dispose of the opposition. However, before long Jackie falls for the beautiful woman on the opposite side, making him question his loyalties to his client and for the better good of the people. Suffice to say he makes the switch and ends up trying to protect her from all the many bad guys. If only every lawyer in the world could do leaping kicks as Jackie Chan demonstrates here…That is the simple premise for Dragons Forever, a film that was released way back in 1988. I’m not exactly sure how well it did at the box office back then but I do know the film comes highly regarded these days.

Who doesn’t like a bit of Jackie Chan kick-ass action though? The guy can jump in and out of sticky situations like a wooden spoon being thrust in and out of a vat of thick treacle stir. Moreover, he has a superior on-screen charm that can only be compared to some of the true giants of Hollywood cinema; and that is a rare gift indeed. Just to add a dash more coolness to the mix, legendary Hong Kong superstar Sammo Hung Kam-Bo directs and stars in this flick and this is easily one of his greatest, most action-packed pictures of his career. Throw in some sour olives and a large helping of cheese, and the end result is a great little flick you’ll probably watch more than once. All you need to do then is chuck in some night-time snacks and a few cans you’ve got yourself an evening of entertainment right there and then.

A word of caution though: this film is fast, very fast. Some of the action scenes are so death-defying you may have to scoop your jaw from the floor afterwards. The best part about it is that they can be both horrendously laugh our loud one moment and utterly wincing the next as you fear for the stunt-persons life. And as we all know, Jackie Chan is the main stunt person throughout his films, and how he has eluded mass trauma so far is quite amazing. You can just feel Sammo Hung Kam-Bo pushing Jackie even harder and the chemistry between star and director clearly shows. If you need to know where the Wachowski brothers got their inspiration for the action side of The Matrix, you need look no further. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if this was one of the films they were obsessed and inspired by during their youth. But one thing remains certain; this film and many others like it almost certainly sparked the beginnings of the Asian/American cop flicks of the 90’s and beyond – Rush Hour for example is one such film that can be seen in Dragons Forever.

Another aspect of the film that stands tall is the chemistry between Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo’s onscreen role and Yuen Biao. The way these characters just literally and figuratively bounce off one another is excellent and is guaranteed to make you cry with laughter. So there you have it, a Hong Kong action/comedy with style, flamboyancy, fanciful attitude and a non-committal elegance the likes of which are rarely seen these days. Check it out; I doubt you’ll be disappointed, especially if you are into these sorts of films. If not, I’d still recommend a rent out at the very least.

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Video
The video transfer is clean and crisp for a movie as old as this one. The colours are pin-sharp and the brightness is just right. Of course the 80’s style cinematography is filmily in place, but this is the only real giveaway to the age of the film. There is quite a moderate helping of grain present on this transfer and there are some traces of flickering now and again, but by far and large this is a print with more pros than cons and an image that looks excellent for a film of this age.

Audio
There are three audio selections present on this DVD; an original and very tinny sounding Cantonese Mono soundtrack, and a Cantonese and English soundtrack in all-out 5.1. I have said this before and I will say it again; if you can help it, never watch the dubbed versions of any foreign film. Stick with the original presentation; that was how the film was made and how it was always meant to be seen. The same applies here in what surely must be a forerunner for worst dubbed film ever. Yes, it really is that bad. Awful actually. Still, the 5.1 Cantonese soundtrack is pretty decent, with plenty of sub action (though it’s not has heavy as I would have liked) and some innovative uses of the surround channels. Dialogue is mostly sharp and distinguishable, but sometimes sounds a little muffled and distant. On the whole, this is a good sounding disc, though just not as outstanding as it could have been and often sounds like an 80’s film with a little enhancement added to it.

Extras
Hong Kong Legends never fail in this department, and they are not about to either. Dragons Forever may not come quite as loaded as some of their previous releases, but is still packed to the brink with useful content and a great collection of features to whet your appetite for more.

After a decisively cheesy DVD title screen appears (which fits with the cheese-laden nature of the film) you are treated to a somewhat minimalist and easy to navigate selection screen. The screen is accompanied by some truly awful ‘so bad its good’ music, and mostly slick animation.

First up is an audio commentary from Hong Kong cinema expert Bay Logan. I like this guy, I have heard a few of his commentaries now and this was probably one of my favourites. There is no denying this guy knows his Asian cinema and he is a good speaker to boot. This is well worth listening to and quite informative. Moving on to disc two now, we first have a deleted scenes reel which guarantees a few belly laughs.

'Dragons Remembered' is a retrospective featurette hosted by Bey Logan and pretty much takes us back the beginning and right up to modern day perception of the film. 'Dragons Uncovered' is the feature to watch for all the behind the scenes stuff. Both of these offer some great insights and really do shed a lot of light on the film and various production stages.

Next up, there are three stunt featurettes: ‘Beyond Gravity: stunts featurette with Joe Eigo’, 'Double Jeopardy: stunts featurette with Brad Allen and finally 'Kick Fighter: stunts featurette with Andy Cheng. All three are superb and offer brilliant tales of how the action comes to life in a film of this nature.

And finally there are some trailers and other promotional material that round out the disc. In all then, this is a noteworthy but oddly lacking disc that, while perfectly satisfying with its included extras, just needed perhaps one or two more to raise it to classic status.

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Overall
What more can be said about Dragons Forever that I haven’t covered above? All I will say is you should check it out; it’s a greatly entertaining Hong Kong action flick with lasting appeal and plenty re-watch value. Go and buy it if you are a serious collector of HKL discs or perhaps look into renting it somewhere if you are on the fence about such films. The DVD itself is a decent package with very good image qualities and some decent sound ones too. The features are also noteworthy, though I just would have liked one or two more, but that’s just a personal gripe which shouldn’t detract you from the semi-greatness of this DVD.


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