Donnie Yen‘s new action comedy, Enter The Fat Dragon, presents a bit of an opportunity for viewers to interpret what exact the so-called “thin line” between love and hate really means.
For fans of Yen’s usual style and caliber of cinematic action and gravitas, there’s plenty to take away in terms of overall enjoyment, while the film’s more archetypal adherences in story and character development bode moreso as acquired tastes to a certain extent.
If you’re an fan of overwrought romantic high-jinks and silliness in films such as Dragons Forever and Police Story, the story between Fallon Zhu (Donnie Yen) and Chloe (Niki Chow) feels like a homely welcome back to classic Hong Kong cinema comedy.
Though Chloe struggles to ascend the hierarchy in her acting career, Fallon is the one who lands the spotlight. His duty bound and dogmatic gumption for enforcing the law is often plagued by haplessness, and despite all this, he still gets the job done, laying waste to bad guys without missing a beat.
Unfortunately, his career proves too much to be a double-edged sword for his superiors, as well as his relationship. In the aftermath of a chase that ends in near-catastrophe, Chloe calls off their engagement and leaves, annoyed by Fallon’s encroaching dedication to his work.
Fallon also ends up demoted to working in the evidence locker, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, a freak workout accident renders him temporarily crippled, spiraling the once idealistic and healthy police inspector into a compensatory eating habit that visibly fattens him.
One day, a chance opportunity arises for Fallon to redeem himself. His newly-promoted former partner, Shing (Louis Cheung) assigns to extradite a Japanese porn director who lost his memory in Hong Kong. The job eventually goes south in rather “revealing” moment, leaving Fallon stranded and eventually staying in the care of Shing’s portly ex-cop brother, Thor (Wong Jing).
Of course, finding the amnesiac is top priority, until a chance reunion with Chloe finds the formerly-engaged couple on the same flight to Japan. The plot unfolds revealing an air of police corruption with the involvement of the local yakuza, who have been regularly shaking down Thor’s ex-fling, Charisma (Teresa Mo), for cash from her restaurant.
With Fallon helpless to all but act on his instincts, his investigation reveals far more than what local dirty businessman Shimakura (Joey Inagawa) wants, even as he’s protected. Bodies soon pile up, and with the mention of an elusive tape that could be the linchpin to uncover the truth and solve a major case, it’s up to Fallon to be the hero that everyone needs, even for the select few that clearly don’t deserve him.
Fact is many of Fallon’s own colleagues don’t share his enthusiasm for going above and beyond the call of duty to fight crime. It’s a crushing blow in addition to watch Chloe’s cartoonish hysteria as she dives right into her neurotic and career-centric self, expending her ire and semantics on Fallon to the point of getting physical and hurting herself in the process.
Realistically speaking, Chloe is the most dislikeable character for the majority of the film, which makes his albeit understandable care for her, in a word, amazing. The only redeeming factor here is how the film transitions from her constant dismissals of his otherwise heroic nature, to vociferous glee and gratitude the moment she finds her own life in danger.
Admittedly, there’s a poignant scene beforehand in which she realizes that leaving him is the only way they can find happiness, which does feel kind of redeeming. Her development here is well-earned by the third act after what feels like a less-than-tolerable exposition between Chloe and Fallon at times, and of course, it helps that it was pertinent to drive the story forward and give viewers with a noteworthy underdog to root for.
Wong Jing’s Thor and Teresa Mo’s Charisma live apart from each other for the film’s one othe romantic arc. Thor, who fancies his old ‘Hard Boiled’ moniker from his heyday cop career, has an insatiable appetite all his own, and can be just as maladroit as Fallon at times. He he loves Charisma so much that he’s waited ten years in her space to requite their romance, taking whatever she throws at him and still doing right by her in the process.
His is a lighter and just as painful plate compared to Fallon’s though. He’s frequently accused of tipping the world’s axis, and shamed for the very thing he’s provenly good at (the action sequences here translate this perfectly). The only real support system he has are Shing and Thor, and even Charisma’s adopted nephew, the pugilistically-gifted Tiger (Chaney Lin), roots for him.
The most exponential thing Enter The Fat Dragon has going for itself beyond the cheesy and sentimental plot points is Yen’s continued elevation in fighting prowess. He trades in a monkey suit with a fat suit to portray Fallon, whose heartbreak and habitual self-engorging with food don’t yet seem to have put an end to his deft ability to take small armies of henchmen to task.
Just shy of Jackie Chan’s signature slapstick, Fallon moves with nimble and deadly prowess between and through bad guys, leaping tall bounds and lining them all up for a whirlwind ass-kicking, and to the delight of fans watching, it impresses like clockwork.
Supporting character entries from here on compliment to the film’s action-professed millieu, momentarily spotlighting young actor Chaney Lin following a flashback guest starring role in Kam Ka-Wei’s Donnie Yen-led school brawler, Big Brother.
The film also introduces a wider debut for actor Joey Inagawa in his latest villianous endeavor long since breaking out in lead fashion for Tsukasa Kishimoto’s Dancing Karate Kid, as well as actor Masanori Mimoto whose credits include Yakuza Apocalypse, Alien Vs. Ninja, Bushido Man, and Kensuke Sonomura’s feature action thriller, Hydra.
Culminating the film’s comedic elements are an array of visibly public, naked shenanigans, morbid jabs toward police, and among all else, Naoto Takenaka’s role of Mr. Endo, a walking punchline in the form of a police official who bares the world’s most obvious wig, choppy English, and a penchant for farting in tight spaces and shamelessly blaming the other guy. The film also offers a handy deal of brief career flashback to Yen’s S.P.L. and Flash Point which are pretty funny as they’re wedged into Fallon’s story.
Stunt and action maestro Kenji Tanigaki gets fronted here as the film’s director in a move long since constituing himself in the director’s chair for ADV Films’ Shinobi film slate, and in 2006 Legend Of Seven Monks. Having kept himself busy on the set with an immersive film resumé through out Asia, Tanigaki proves his filmmaking viability with a worthwhile action comedy that graces Yen fans with something a little different and all the more exciting in various parts.
If the often goofball, workaday drama and romantic plotting prove weatherable for you from the start, watching Yen’s Enter The Fat Dragon will certainly take a liking. Waxing philosophical about being ‘like water’ aside, wouldn’t be Yen’s first time incorporating a role with the movements and mannerisms inspired by the late Bruce Lee, so it’s all very familiar ground for Yen to ply his trade on.
For fans, it’s even more distinguishing for a derivative rebuff of Sammo Hung’s classic Bruce Lee riff, reassuring ceremony for late martial arts legend in its own way.