The early two-thousandsies saw an essential shot-in-the-arm rebirth of Hong Kong action cinema with the pairing of actor Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip for S.P.L.. In its wake, it left fans fawning over one two of the genre’s greatest action matches in film history also featuring Wu Jing and a brutal finale with Sammo Hung, thus etching a major success for the actor/director duo as the first in a string of staple thrillers and adventures that would further make Yen into a cult-driven household name since falling short years earlier with crossover efforts, Highlander: Endgame and Blade 2.
Going forward and taking a page from the manhua end of things, Yip and Yen reunited for Mandarin Films’ Dragon Tiger Gate, the story of three warriors – two of whom are brothers seperated by their lifestyles and ideals and forced to come to terms in order avenge their master’s death at the hands of a superpowered criminal. The story is sheer a tale of brotherhood, dark heroism and redemption on several fronts, emboldened by big scale action with performances headlined by Yen, actors Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue as our heroic trio along with Yuen Wah, and a masked Yu Kang later taking a more profuse stagefront in acting, sharing nominal credits next to Yen in the process with recent success, Big Brother, and the pending release of Iceman: The Time Traveler.
Folks keen on behind-the-scenes gems may also remember the Hong Kong DVD release which also shows Tse reflecting on one of the more challenging shoots involving the inaugural action scene at the teahouse in which Tse kicks a stuntman in the face and a visibly frustrated Yen stops filming as the actor struggled to get the stunt right. I forget how many takes was mentioned but I do remember Tse mentioning the stuntman telling him to just hit him, eventually getting the take right that following day (there’s a clip of Tse discussing this and it’s unfortunately in Cantonese but you can definitely check it out and find a subtitled cut of it if possible. The HK DVD was especially welcoming).
Tse went on to add this as one of his strongest kicking performances on screen preceding his reunion with Yue on Invisible Target with Jaycee Chan, Andy On and the venerable wunderkind himself, Wu Jing, who plays a near-impenetrable villain in the film and it’s an absolute thing of beauty right down to the fatal blow. Of course, mention of a sequel for Dragon Tiger Gate once stirred in some form or another in 2006 with word that the cast would return. In 2009, Dante Lam was even attached to direct with Gordon Chan slated to produce the film, and sadly that never came to pass – such are the mysteries of cinema.
Anyway, if you’re within reach of a Netflix account, the film is now readily available to stream for you to relive your fandom – nearly 90 minutes of watching Yip’s totally wigged cast, host to Tse kicking the nonsense out of everyone dressed in black, Yue showstopping as nunchaku-wielding gangbuster, and Yen doing what Yen does best, and looking good doing it as always. Considering how much love there is for this film, it should definitely hold folks over until Ip Man 4 and all else that awaits with Yen to be on screen…
…Who knows? Maybe that will mean a Dragon Tiger Gate sequel may still happen, albeit with a different cast or concept. Sure, it might be wishful thinking at this point but if anyone knows anything about this or has an idea going forward, I’m more than welcome to hear it.
Comment below and share your thoughts on a sequel!