When Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee’s tribute to the wuxia (swordplay) films of the late ’60s, became a megahit with American and European audiences, Chinese producers enlisted renowned directors to elevate the large-scale action genre with their gifts for visual composition and narrative complexity. Zhang Yimou scored with Hero, Tsui Hark with Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. Peter Chan’s Dragon (original title: Wu Xia) enthralls both as an evocation of the classic One-Armed Swordsman films, directed by Chang Cheh and starring Jimmy Wang Yu, and as a sophisticated, stand-alone delight. The hidden dragon here is Donnie Yen, as the quiet husband and father whose fierce powers are made known when he saves a shopkeeper from a bandit attack — and reveals himself as the renegade son of the bandits’ leader (a great comeback role for Wang Yu). Yen also choreographed the splendid stunts, in a drama that achieves both gravity and buoyancy, and balances a familial tenderness with chest-caving kicks.
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