Thursday, February 13, 2020

Enter the Fat Dragon (2020)

Director: Kenji Tanigaki
Notable Cast: Donnie Yen, Teresa Mo, Niki Chow, Wong Jing

After the explosion of the Ip Man franchise, Donnie Yen became one of the biggest action stars in the world. Not just in China and Hong Kong, but the world. His influence even carried him back over to the United States and roles in Star Wars and the upcoming live-action version of Disney’s Mulan. No matter how big his name becomes though, Yen has always been true to what made him popular as an action star and when he starts to dabble in new genres, he keeps one foot firmly planted in the action realm. Last year’s film Big Brother was a prime example of this and, as the focus of this review, he does it once again with Enter the Fat Dragon.

Although one has to be skeptical of a film that uses an incredibly fit person like Donnie Yen as the titular Fat Dragon in a prosthetic “fat suit,” it’s relatively shocking that Enter the Fat Dragon is as fun as it is.  The film is a mixture of genres, combining the action set pieces of a cop who uncovers a criminal enterprise while in a foreign country (this time being Japan) and the romantic comedy elements of a couple working through their own personal issues together. With an even better blend of the genres than say, the previously mentioned Big Brother, Enter the Fat Dragon keeps the tonality smoothly moving between the two. It’s not as if there is one action set-piece followed by a comedic one and then vice versa, but director Kenji Tanigaki has a very stable hand at getting the two to flow together in some remarkably charming and fun ways. The action is filled with comedy and the comedy is often related to the action.

The cast is also game for almost anything in Enter the Fat Dragon, particularly Yen who is asked to provide a lot of broad laughs and still deliver some high-octane action. Granted, the fat suit doesn’t always look the best in many sequences and, let’s be honest, the handsome person in a fat suit joke thankfully died in the early 00s, but Donnie Yen is giving it his all here and he delivers in spades. He has a lot of great secondary cast members to help support him too. Particularly in how gleefully evil the yakuza villain is in the film, the romantic chemistry provided by Teresa Mo, and the fun and friendly secondary cast that ably brings comedic chops to the film. Nothing here is all that revolutionary, but the charm is maximized and it carries the film quite some distance from its basic concepts.

Most people who are leaping into a new Donnie Yen film are, more or less, doing so for the sake of the action. Enter the Fat Dragon also provides on that front. Impressively so. Donnie Yen plays a ‘supercop’ in the film and he gets to show off a ton of his abilities. The film, also being a comedy, gets to provide him and the stunt teams plenty of fun sets and set pieces. A fight in the back of a moving van sets up the tone nicely from the beginning and a series of meta-jokes about martial arts films (and how the main character is secretly obsessed with Bruce Lee) gives the rest of the film plenty to showcase. A few chase set pieces that occur in a fully built city street set are colorful and dynamic and the finale on Tokyo Tower provides plenty of thrills despite its obvious green screen backdrops. For a film that uses a romantic comedy through-line as its emotional center, the film is packed with skull-rattling martial arts action and it’s incredibly well filmed and choreographed.

All in all, Enter the Fat Dragon is a surprisingly fun and well-crafted action-comedy. Donnie Yen is bringing his all to the role, both in a funny and ass-kicking manner, there is an outrageous amount of action sequences and the charm of its cast and concept is oozing through most of the run time. The humor tends to be pretty slapstick and silly, so it can be hit or miss in those regards and the slick blockbuster look of the film doesn’t invoke the classic era of HK action, but for those with an open mind for modern action flicks there is a lot of laughs and hollering to be had with the film.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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