The One with a Boat Fight

Hong Kong’s economic output throughout the ‘80s proved a perfect foil for Jackie Chan, using the industrial expansion as story fodder in Dragons Forever. Playing a lawyer defending the comically corrupt, cigar-chomping caricature Wah Yuen, Chan infiltrates the business and as expected, fights a lot. And it’s spectacular.

The final movie to star the martial arts trio Chan, Sammo Hung, and Biao Yuen together, Dragons Forever sifts through Hong Kong’s seedy professionalism, taking the capitalist system to task as the rich buy what they want to silence critics. In the beginning, all anyone cares about is their cut, Chan included.

… the amount of shattered glass during Dragons Forever’s finale is unbelievable

That gives life to the characterization and their story arcs, mixed in with goofy rom com love that sees Chan falling for the opposition. Dragons Forever can subsist on that entertaining farce, even as the cliches pile on. There’s the dinner in which Chan must keep his girlfriend in the dark about others in the home, and a manic boat date that ends in sensational fisticuffs. It’s charmingly uncomplicated, routine, and predictable, sustained because Chan is such a joy to watch flailing around, trying to save the relationship; his action-comedy timing remains unmatched.

Then come the fights, among the most splendidly choreographed outbursts in Chan’s career, and that’s not said lightly. Short of Police Story’s epic mall battle, the amount of shattered glass during Dragons Forever’s finale is unbelievable. Stunt work looks absolutely painful, and the speed doesn’t even seem possible for human beings.

Happening in triplicate, the camera jumps from Yuen, Hung, and Chan, each locked in combat with different foes, putting aside their differences for the common cause. Yuen, playing a hyper-liberal political oddball, is given the funniest dialog and has the martial arts skills to help. Hung, stoned on injected drugs, still puts up a defense, while Chan clashes with Benny Urquidez, a one-on-one spat that splashes across the screen as if a miracle. Every punch and kick hurts as they sell the blows; their landings look even worse. Better, there’s enough narrative to make this all matter.

Video

It’s possible to draw a complaint regarding this encode. The film stock’s grain structure poses a consistent challenge, and the compression will succumb to chroma noise often. However, this doesn’t come at much cost. Dragons Forever astonishingly sharp, and the defined master won’t lose detail to the artifacts. Instead, detail swells within the frame. Texture bests any previous video edition by miles, if not lightyears. The level of fidelity, the cleanliness of the print, and constant, impressive resolution are truly astounding.

Plus, there’s the color, heightened by a flush Dolby Vision pass. Warmed flesh tones look elevated but not offensively so. Generous saturation brings primaries healthy vividness to the film, to the peak of each hue but without turning into bleeding.

Also aggressive is brightness, hitting the purest whites as water reflects from Hong Kong’s waters. Exteriors soak up sunlight, then project it at full visual volume. Equally stellar, black levels reach their deepest possible levels and still avoid crush.

Audio

Cantonese Atmos joins Cantonese mono, English dub mono, a 5.1 English mix on the HK cut. In Atmos, the music favors the surrounds heavily, almost distracting in intensity. Positionals show excellent directionality, tracking things like doors closing behind the listener or water splashing around, even if the effect comes through artificially; rear speakers elevate in the mix, creating imbalance. An echo inside Sammo Hung’s empty apartment is more annoyance than natural effect.

In short, stick with restored mono. There, the fidelity is just a strong, and minus the distracting effects.

Extras

The 4K disc houses extras in bunches. Frank Djeng and FJ DeSanto handle commentary on the Japanese cut. Mike Leeder and Arne Venema do the same, but for the Hong Kong version. Note the international cut is here too, but with no commentary.

Interviews begin with stuntman Chin Kar-Lok, the move on to writer Szeti Cheuk-Hon, actor Benny Urquidez, professor David Desser, Mike Leeder, and stuntmen Joe Eigo, Andy Chang, Jude Poyer, and Billy Chow (all individually). A brief two-minute retrospective is followed by set footage/outtakes (12-minutes worth). Music videos and trailers cap this sensational, hours long extras set.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Dragons Revenge
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Movie

Romance and pollution fill Dragons Forever’s simple story between a mountain of epic brawls.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 40 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: