Legend of the Dragon
Cast: Stephen Chow, Theresa Mo, Leung Ka Yan, Yuen Wah, Shing Fui On, Corey Yuen (cameo).
Director: Danny Lee
Synopsis: Naïve country boy Chow Siu Lung (Stephen Chow) goes to the big city with Uncle Yan (Leung Ka Yan)and gets involved with triads and gambling.
Yes, you’ve seen it before in dozens of movies all over the world. Country Bumpkin who has a special talent goes to the Big City and is exploited by a greedy crook. Stephen Chow’s earlier “All for the Winner” is one in this genre. “All for the Winner” has Chow’s “special power” exploited by his uncle (Ng Man Tat) to win money at cards. In “Legend of the Dragon” Chow’s talent is (wait for it…) Snooker! Snooker (as far as I can tell) is like Billiards or Pool but with different colored balls and a different scoring system.
Chow Fei Hung (Yuen Wah) is a landowner and kung fu teacher in fishing village Tai O whose claim to fame is that he was Bruce Lee’s stunt double (as was Yuen Wah in real life). Chow senior names his son Chow Siu Lung (Stephen Chow) after Bruce Lee. Siu Lung is a pupil of his father and excels in kung fu that involves pole-like objects including umbrellas and pool cues.
Leung Ka Yan plays Uncle Yan, a small time gambler from Hong Kong who witnesses Siu Lung’s prowess at snooker and sees dollar signs. Of course, Siu Lung won’t gamble since his Dad has forbidden it, so Uncle Yan brings Siu Lung to Hong Kong, and has him play in matches while gambling on them behind his back. Siu Lung eventually must play against real life British snooker champion Jimmy White to regain his father’s land (which Uncle Yan lost in an earlier match).
The cast of Legend of the Dragon seems well suited to their roles. Stephen Chow is at his best when he plays the underdog/country bumpkin who triumphs over evil. He also gets to show off his kung fu and billiards skills (he reportedly plays well in real life). His love interest is played by Theresa Mo, who is known by fans of “Hard Boiled” as Chow Yun Fat’s serious minded girlfriend. She is better known to Hong Kong audiences for her comedic performances and she plays up the comedy angle by continually beating up Stephen Chow. They both play country kids naïve about the facts of life - they worry that she will become pregnant after a seconds-long kiss- but it’s OK; apparently one can only get pregnant if the woman swallows the man’s saliva! This makes for some amusing moments but not in a cloying or over-the-top manner.
Yuen Wah plays Siu Lung’s father and kung fu teacher. Chow Fei Hung is proud of his days as stuntman for Bruce Lee and of his land in Tai O and Yuen Wah plays him with dignity. Yuen also was action director for this film, but unfortunately he doesn’t do enough fighting for my tastes as it’s always a pleasure to watch him in action.
Leung Ka Yan is the real surprise in this movie. The role of Uncle Yan is very similar to those that Ng Man-Tat has played in many Stephen Chow movies (including “All for the Winner”) but since he plays it relatively straight you don’t even realize it is essentially the same role. Earlier film roles cast him in period kung fu stories and Danny Lee cop films so it is refreshing to see him doing comedy and playing a small time gambler who is always looking for the big score.
As in most films of this genre the ending is a show-down between good and evil. In the gambling film it is the high stakes game, in kung fu films it is the climactic fight scene, and this time around it is the high profile media circus of a championship snooker tournament. It would not spoil the all too obvious ending to tell you that Siu Lung wins both the tournament and the girl and kicks evil’s butt into the bargain.
Danny Lee’s direction is pretty utilitarian. Nothing fancy here, except for the opening aerial shots of the lion dance festival in Tai O and the “we rented a helicopter and we’re going to use it” shots of Tai O later in the movie.
The digitally remastered DVD version of this film available from YesAsia contains an interview with Leung Ka Yan in which he reminisces about the filming of Legend of Dragon and talks about Stephen Chow’s influence on modern Hong Kong films.