• Chasing The Dragon



    Released by: Well Go USA
    Released on: January 23rd, 2018.
    Director: Jason Kwan, Jing Wong
    Cast: Donnie Yen, Andy Lau, Philip Keung, Kent Cheng, Bryan Larkin, Niki Chow
    Year: 2017
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    The Movie:

    Co-directed by Jason Kwan and the insanely prolific Jing Wong (who also wrote and produced), 2017’s Chasing The Dragon is set in the Hong Kong of 1963 while the territory was still under British rule. The story follows the rise and fall of two of Hong Kong’s most notorious criminals. When the movie begins, a mainland Chinese man named Ho (Donnie Yen) illegally makes his way into Hong Kong with his brother Peter (Jonathan Lee) and a few friends. Ho quickly starts to make a name for himself in certain underworld circles by running drugs for a mobster named Bro Chubby (Ben Ng) in Kowloon. Ho’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder and has a tendency to mouth off, but he can back it up. The guy can fight. These are traits that earn him as many, if not more, enemies than friends.

    As time passes and the sixties turns into the seventies, Ho’s lifestyle catches up with him. Injured from some of the fights he’s been in, particularly a nasty broken leg, he winds up walking with a cane and what was once a fairly amiable nature begins to sour. Now referred to as ‘Crippled Ho,’ his fledging drug business starts to really take off and as his power and influence grows, Chief Detective Sergeant Lee Rock (Andy Lau) helps him out – for a price, along with his right-hand man Piggy (Kent Cheng). When the Hong Kong police establish the Independent Commission Against Corruption to keep their police force on the up and up, however, Rock is forced into retirement. Regardless, Ho’s ambitions remain what they are and rather than slow down until he can find new protection, he goes all in.

    A sprawling movie that clocks in at just over two hours in length, Chasing The Dragon is an impressive picture. The attention to period detail is excellent – the filmmakers have done a great job of recreating the sixties and seventies eras respectively right down to the last detail: clothes, furniture, cares, decorations, the color schemes and even the characters’ mannerisms. It feels right. The music helps here too, conjuring up a bit of a retro vibe without overdoing it. All of this is captured by some slick but effective camerawork that ensures that the movie consistently looks good.

    The performances are also very strong. The talented supporting players all do their part but it’s Andy Lau and Donnie Yen that really own the film. Lau is well cast as the corrupt cop, he does ‘smug’ really well and that works here. He looks the part and has the right sort of cocky attitude to pull this off. Yen, however, is the best part of the film. While this is a considerably more dramatic role than most he’s known for, there are still opportunities for him to show off his martial arts skills, especially in the first hour of the film. It’s the acting that really impresses, however. Yen’s slowly but surely been turning in some genuinely good dramatic work in the last few years – the Ip Man series are fine examples of that -but here he takes things to a new level. He really throws himself into the part so well that at times you forget you’re watching Donnie Yen. He pushes aside his ‘Donnie Yen’ persona and becomes Ho, really letting the character evolve in the best way possible.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Well Go USA presents Chasing The Dragon on a 50GB Blu-ray disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer properly framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. The digitally shot feature is pristine, just as you’d expect, while fine detail is excellent throughout. There are times where the colors have been intentionally muted to give the film a certain look, but that’s part of the picture’s aesthetic – otherwise, color reproduction is great. Skin tones look nice and lifelike and there are strong black levels as well. No complaints, the movie looks great on Blu-ray.

    DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks are provided in English and in the film’s native Cantonese with removable subtitles offered up in English and Chinese. For review purposes, the movie was watched with the Cantonese DTS-HD 5.1 mix, and it’s quite strong. The action scenes make the most of the surround channels while there’s decent LFE action present throughout. The score sounds strong without burying the performers while dialogue remains nicely balanced.

    Extras are limited to a trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for Brotherhood of Blades 2, The Adventures and The Swindlers, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD version of the movie included. Both discs fit inside a standard Blu-ray keepcase that in turn fits inside a slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    The best thing that either Donnie Yen or Jing Wong have done in a while, Chasing The Dragon manages to hit the right mix of drama and action, blending equal parts style and substance into a really strong crime film that is both engaging and entertaining. Well Go USA’s Blu-ray release is disappointingly light on extras but it does look and sound really good. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!