Adorable And Hard-hitting, ‘Enter The Fat Dragon’ Charms With Its Charismatic Lead And Blistering Action Pieces
Fallon Zhu (Donnie Yen) is a Hong Kong police officer – an agile fighter with a high crime detection rate. Dumped by his fiancée Chloe (Niki Chow), Fallon was heartbroken and started indulging in food. In six months, he became 200+ pounds. His superior, Superintendent Huang, puts him in charge of escorting a convict to Japan. A series of mishaps befall him in Japan; not only did he lose all of his belongings, he also lost the convict in his custody. His luck overturned when he met Thor (Wong Jing), another Hong Kong citizen. The both of them join forces to solve the mystery behind Fallon’s convict’s strange and sudden death. Troubles continue to snowball, affecting those around Fallon. Fallon is thus determined to uproot the gang, regardless.
Director: Kenji Tanigaki
Cast: Donnie Yen, Niki Chow, Teresa Mo, Wong Jing, Jessica Jann, Chaney Lin, Louis Cheung, Naoto Takenaka, Joey Tee, Tetsu Watanabe
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, English
Runtime: 97 minutes
Back in 1978, Sammo Hung made a film called Enter the Fat Dragon 肥龍過江 , in which he played a chubby fan of Bruce Lee who moves to the city to work at his uncle’s restaurant. Penned by acclaimed novelist and screenwriter Ni Kuang, Enter the Fat Dragon was a satire of Bruceploitation films of the 70s.
30 years later, a new Enter the Fat Dragon enters the picture. Except this time, it stars Donnie Yen as Fallon Zhu, a police officer who, after being dumped by his girlfriend starts to indulge in food and ends up being over 250 pounds.
Directed by Kenji Tanigaki (an action choreographer and member of Yen’s stunt team), the 2020 Enter the Fat Dragon takes from the 1978 film only its title and the premise of an overweight Bruce Lee fan kicking butt. But the idea of getting Yen to play an overweight character was actually inspired by a 2015 commercial where Yen played a fatter version of himself, which received much attention.
Contrary to his past works that have a more serious tone, Yen dons a fat suit in this Chinese New Year action comedy that is an endearing throwback to nostalgic Hong Kong comedies. Yen’s fat suit generally looks convincing, except for scenes where he interacts with Wong Jing (also the producer and scriptwriter), who is naturally fat, then the differences stand out a lot.
In such scenes, Yen’s suit looks too flawless. Without wrinkles, his face seems stiff apart from his eyes and mouth. In some shots, it even looks like he’s had a severe allergic reaction that caused him to swell up.
Despite wearing a 40kg fat suit, Yen still manages to pull off the hard-hitting and brutal style of action he is known for in his previous works such as SPL and Flashpoint. In fact, the two films are also referenced in this film, including a remake of the classic alley fight from SPL between Yen and Wu Jing back in 2005.
Members of Yen’s stunt team and usual collaborators, Takahito Ouchi, Yan Hua and Yu Kang take on the role of action choreographer in this film, and they deliver visually stunning sequences throughout the film. It’s incredibly entertaining watching a chubby version of Yen throwing drop kicks, climbing street lamps and free running on rooftops, utilising his agile parkour abilities to make each fight unique to the environment they take place in.
The comedy in the film is surprisingly funny, even though it kind of goes overboard when the film tries to make the death of some characters seem funny. Certain characters also seem flat and they only exist for comic relief or clichéd jokes. That’s not the fault of the actors, but rather a script that lacks in depth and complexity, which does not require much thinking on the audience’s part.
The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, so if you’re able to take a step back and not treat it as a serious film, you’ll be able to overlook that. But for a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, a lot of effort has been put into it, especially the production design, where they built entire streets of Shinjuku in a studio and manage to make it extremely realistic.
Throughout the film, there are moments that echo issues from the recent protests in Hong Kong, with two of them standing out the most. One would be the connivance of the triads and the police in Tokyo, and the other the final voice-over referencing Bruce Lee’s famous line “Be water” which so happens to be used as a slogan of the Hong Kong protestors.
While Hongkongers may choose to boycott the film due to Yen’s pro-Beijing stance like they did for Ip Man 4: The Finale, the film may have unintentionally gone in the other direction, with political allegories of the current situation in Hong Kong. Filmed in 2018 before the protests started, perhaps nobody ever expected Enter the Fat Dragon to have a political side given its comical tone.
As an action film, Enter the Fat Dragon excels and provides plenty of thrilling set pieces. As a comedy, it might be able to entertain some audiences while others may find it slightly dull. But depending on your preference, there is definitely something to love in this festive blockbuster, which works as both a family film or even a date film.
Enter the Fat Dragon is currently out in cinemas, so be sure to catch it on the big screen! Check out the trailer below: