Thursday, February 5, 2009
Dragon in Jail
Andy Laus plays Henry, a young convict who was sent to a correctional facility and later prison for killing a local Triad member who was trying to collect protection money from his family. While in the correctional center he meets up with new prisoner Wayne (Kenny Ho). Wayne finds himself under constant harassment from the other prisoners, that is until Henry decides to step in and help. The two quickly form a close bond, until the both are eventually released. Because of his wealthy background Wayne is able to travel to the UK to study law. Unfortunately his friend is not so lucky. Serving time in a prison has left henry with a criminal record, and with little money he is forced to work minimal jobs in hopes of fulfilling his promise to Wayne that he would follow his own advice and eventually go to school.
It isn’t long after he begins to piece his life back together that the friends of the triad he kills show up to get vengeance for their fallen comrade. With nowhere else to turn, he accepts the help of his friend, and another fellow ex-convict Skinny (John Ching) and joins the Triads himself. He soon gains wealth and success in the gang, but with his success comes the consequences, including frequent injuries, and drug addiction. He also starts drifting from those he loves, his family, and his pregnant wife (Gigi Lai), and his now successful friend returning from law school.
Hong Kong triad films are a dime a dozen, especially from the late 80's early 90's. Dragon in Jail is no different, it’s a good film, but it fails to stand apart from anything else. It takes its sweet time to get going, in fact despite its importance to the plot, the entire opening scenes in the Correction Center feels like it took a lifetime to watch, when in actuality only takes about 15 minutes of the films running time. There is basically three different kinds of films in Dragon in Jail, first we get a prison movie, which like I said is no Prison on Fire. Then once our heros are released we get the triad film, knife fights, motorcycles, etc. Then near the end of the film we get into its “courtroom drama” phase. So it goes without saying that the pacing is not the greatest, but to the films credit the courtroom scenes are some of the best.
Perhaps what does salvage this film is its acting. However, Andy Lau pretty much never gives a poor performance, so saying he was great in this particular film goes without saying. . .but I will, Andy Lau great in this film. The rest of the primary cast also delivered quite well, especially Gigi Lai. There is not much action to speak up, mostly crowded machete fights. However there is one particular fight, which I will not detail to avoid possible spoilers, but it is in my personal opinion the highlight of the film, and its comes at the right time to save what is overall a paint-by-numbers triad flick, at the end!
A Film by Kent Cheng