Dragons Forever brings us to the third of our “Three Dragons Trilogy”, released in 1988 this was the second to be directed by Sammo Hung. On release the film flopped at the box office but has since gone on to be regarded as a classic of the genre. We opted to review the Japanese release as it contains 4 extra minutes not included in the Hong Kong version, all 4 versions are included on the 88 Films Blu ray release.
This piece has a very different tone from the outset with the introduction of our villain Yeun Wah, in a scene where he meets a rival gang boss ( James Tien) and puts him firmly in his place.
The plot is quickly set up with a family run fish farm trying to take out a court injunction against Yuen Wah's factory over pollution issues. Cue lawyer Jackie Chan whose firm puts him forward to defend the factory. He soon enlists his two brothers Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao to assist him in this dubious affair.
We feel this is a change of direction for Chan as this is the closest he has come to playing a bad guy. He plays an unscrupulous defence lawyer with an eye for the ladies, anyone else playing this role could easily have made him a sleazy character but Jackie Chan plays it just right with his usual charm.
Sammo Hung plays a black market dealer who also does Chans dirty work. Yeun Biao plays Chans friend who as well as helping him out with cases has his own issues to deal with.
The fish farm is run by Miss Yip ( Deanie Ip) and her cousin Nancy Lee (Pauline Yeung) is helping her with the case, Sammo moves in next door to Miss Yip with the idea of seducing the owner and Jackie is trying to seduce the Nancy, initially all for the sake of the case. This all changes when the respective couples end up falling in love and Sammo and Jackie decide to fight on the side of the fish farm.
After Wheels on Meals this movie has a definite shift to a more serious tone. Even the more humourous moments have an edge to them, the highlight of these is an exchange between our three and a case of mistaken identity between Sammo Hung and Yeun Biao. But even this scene is lit very darkly in a change to what has gone before. One possible reason for this is the actors not wanting to be typecast in the martial arts hero role and wanting to play something more dramatic and down to earth.
This piece is not as action heavy as its predecessors with the battles predominantly being fought in the courtroom with words rather than fists and feet. We also see more character development through the wooing of the cousins and Yeun Biao’s visits to his psychiatrist.
That being said there are 2 hard hitting fight scenes which build us up for an exciting set piece finale in the factory, where after going to collect evidence to help the fish farm Sammo is captured and his friends have to rescue him.
The final fight between Jackie Chan and Benny Urquidez had great promise but we both felt it lacked the wow factor of their face off in Wheels on Meals. Part of this is due to Yuen Wah stealing the show with flashy little moments of skill and acrobatics not to mention his use of a cigar as a character trait rather than a prop. We are also reminded of how talented Yuen Biao is in his art form, its surprising how he is not as well known in the west as Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung.
Unfortunately this film was not a success at the box office and this may be the reason why the three never worked in this capacity again, which is a shame as they have known each other since childhood, came up through the Peking Opera School and learnt their craft together.
We can only hope………
Thanks to very talented Mr Tony Stella for the use of his artwork you can see more of his work here https://www.tony-stella.com/
Also check out Tony's tribute to The Three Dragons here https://wrongreel.com/podcast/wr410-the-three-dragons/