The 2020 Chinese New Year movies are off to a good start with Enter The Fat Dragon <肥龍過江>, which happens to share the identical title with the 1978 film of the same name starring Sammo Hung.
Donnie Yen plays Fallon Zhu, a dedicated Hong Kong police officer who cares more about upholding the law than anything else — a result that made his fiancee (Niki Chow’s Chloe) finally had enough of him and call off their wedding.
Meanwhile, Fallon got himself into trouble after accidentally ramming the van through the police headquarters and almost hit the Commissioner of Police (Anthony Chan Yau). After subsequently being demoted to a desk job at the evidence room, he spends the next six months bingeing on foods and snacks to the point he becomes overweight.
That’s when he is tasked by his colleague Shing (Louis Cheung) to escort a Japanese convict back to Tokyo. What could have been a simple assignment turns out to be a mess when the convict escaped custody. Realising he needs to take care of the matter before making his way back to Hong Kong, Fallon seeks assistance from Shing’s former police colleague Thor (Wong Jing), who used to have a nickname called “Hard Boiled” (an obvious reference to Chow Yun-Fat’s Tequila role in John Woo’s 1992 action film of the same name).
Now, the idea of having Donnie Yen leading an action-comedy and putting on a fat suit sounds like a disaster-in-the-making. Sure, he used to prove his worth in pulling off such a role in The Monkey King <大鬧天宮> (2014). Still, I remained sceptical about how Enter The Fat Dragon <肥龍過江> might end up.
Fortunately, co-directors Kenji Tanigaki and Aman Chang are able to pull off the impossible by making this action comedy with a distinct Hong Kong flavour. One that is fast, nonsensical and energetic enough to keep you occupied under the breezy 95-minute length.
While there are the times some of the jokes feel forced and Yen’s prosthetic makeup tends to look — well, plasticky, Enter The Fat Dragon <肥龍過江> manages to overcome most of the flaws with its feel-good factor and pacey entertainment values. The action — credited to a trio of choreographers including Takahito Ouchi, Yan Hua and Yu Kang — seem to draw heavy influences from the old Jackie Chan films. We get to see Donnie Yen (and his stunt double) performing a lot of jumping other than his usual martial-arts moves, which is actually a refreshing change of pace. Whether it was the brawl in the crowded streets or the fish market, it almost feels like watching Donnie Yen emulating the nimble style of Jackie Chan during his heyday.
If that’s not enough, Yen let loose and even parodied his own action movies including 2005’s SPL <殺破狼> and 2007’s Flash Point <導火線>. This is the second time in the row that I’m impressed with Yen’s acting performance following his dramatic turn in last December’s Ip Man 4 <葉問4>.
As for the rest of the cast, Niki Chow somehow reminds me of the late Anita Mui who used to pair with Jackie Chan in movies like Drunken Master II <醉拳II> (1994) and Rumble In The Bronx <紅番區> (1995). Not only she brings solid support to her role of Chloe but also proves to have great chemistry with Donnie Yen. Both Wong Jing and Teresa Mo, where the latter plays a restaurant owner along with Louis Cheung round up the entertaining cast in this movie.
And as with most Jackie Chan films, Enter The Fat Dragon <肥龍過江> also includes a funny outtake during the end-credit scene.