DRAGON TIGER GATE
(Lung Fu Moon)
Dragon Tiger Gate follows on from The Storm Riders (1998), which began to mix Wu Xia filmmaking with Western-styled CGI effects. Here Wilson Yip manages an extremely assured blend of standard Hong Kong action stylistics and modern CGI, Steadicam and blurred cut-up motion. Dragon Tiger Gate kicks in with a series of action scenes that rock the theatre and blow away all the wimpy Western imitators that have tried to jump on the popularisation of Wu Xia that came after The Matrix (1999) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). The film opens with a turbo-charged sequence where Nicholas Tse erupts into action and starts kicking people all around a restaurant, even through the ceiling, and using circular dining tables as giant discuses. A few minutes later there comes an even more amazing sequence with various parties meeting up in a Japanese restaurant and a fight erupting between dozens of combatants crowded together in small rooms, where Wilson Yip then whips his camera up to an aerial shot looking down across the rooms as the parties fight, while diners in other rooms eat on undisturbed. The film is shot in a beautifully stylised way the lighting and colours of the backgrounds are exquisite. Everything also comes highly posed with just about every one of the actors having haircuts that come with forelocks artfully draped across one eye.
Dragon Tiger Gate doesnt have many fantasy elements per se, although the martial arts sequences are so fantastical that they clearly become so. Minor fantasy elements can be found in the possibly supernatural villain in a beaten gold mask, as well as a sequence where Angela Dong goes to the Zen master to plead for Nicholas Tses life and is asked to pick up a host of prayer beads as they fall down the steps of the temple, only for this to prove to be an illusion to test her. The minus side of Dragon Tiger Gate is that it slows down in between the martial arts scenes. The story spends a little too much time on the two heroes and their backstory as children, as well as the two women that either becomes attracted to.
(Nominee for Best Cinematography at this sites Best of 2006 Awards).