[box cover]

Legend of the Red Dragon

Ah, re-titlings — the now semi-respectable business of big studios releasing what were once considered chop-sockey titles meant mostly for grindhouses now have found a niche market in the direct-to-video world. Unfortunately, some of the worst habits of its old-school practitioners have carried over, and though one would have guessed after the global success of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon that dubbing and re-titling would become outmoded, you'd have guessed wrong. Changes have occurred, though — in the '70s a title would be changed to make it more violent, whereas nowadays it's more than likely to be changed to sound like CTHD. This is the case for the Legend of the Red Dragon — originally titled Hong Xiguan zhi Shaolin wu zu (1994) or New Legend of Shaolin — which has been made more palatable for American audiences with this infinitely blander title and shorn of 12 minutes to give it a more exploitation-savvy 83-minute running time. Directed by Wong Jing, this Dragon tells the Lone Wolf and Baby Cart-influenced tale of a father/son team who become outlaws when they stand against an evil town's government, but eventually become bodyguards to a wealthy man. And the job offers intrigue, as the rich man's son has one-fifth of a Shaolin treasure map on his back, and Kwun (Jet Li) must then not only protect his new master's son, but also fight against the city's army and the nemesis he thought he'd already killed — a nemesis now returned with what appears to be super-powers. But the story is only meant to showcase kung fu, practised best by Jet Li and Tse Miu — the ten-year-old prodigy who convincingly plays Li's son. And, as choreographed by Cory Yuen, the action scenes are great and frequent enough to cover the film's broad comic moments. Dragon would make for a fairly good evening's worth of entertainment, if it weren't for one small problem: The dubbing is awful. Really awful, and it's something that could have been avoided if an original language track was present on the disc. But the film is presented dubbed only, and there's the requisite strange pauses to match mouth movements, the children's' voices that sound like wiseacre tykes from bad sitcoms, and two female kung fu artists who utter "Bring it on!" in a period film. Columbia TriStar (who should have known better) presents Legend of the Red Dragon in letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1, not anamorphic) and in both DD 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Filmographies, photo gallery, trailer gallery. Keep-case.
—DSH



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