Director: Chu Yin-Ping
Producer: Zhang Xia-Ping
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Sik Siu-Lung, Pok Siu-Man, Tsui Kam-kong, Ng Man-tat, Yip Chuen-Chun
What, You’ve Never Seen One Before? : China Dragon
There were so many possibilities with the word “China,” the victor of Film Phonics Week 13. “The China Syndrome” (James Bridges, 1979), “Big Trouble in Little China” (John Carpenter, 1986), Tsui Hark’s “Once Upon a Time in China” films (early 90s), and approximately 236 other pieces constituted my options. I went with “China Dragon” (Chu Yin-Ping, 1995) because I used to be totally in love with Takeshi Kaneshiro. Born to a Taiwanese mother and a Japanese father, he speaks Mandarin, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Japanese, and English (he might as well learn and add Korean to that list). In the seventeen years he has been an idol in Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan, he has released a handful of albums and starred in thirty-six films and TV series.
In “China Dragon” Kaneshiro plays a hibachi chef who operates a cart outside a luxury hotel in Hawaii. Before double-checking on IMDB, I assumed that this film was released before Wong Kar-Wai’s “Chungking Express” (1994,) because Kaneshiro exuded much more maturity as the cop who ate expired pineapple until he puked. “China Dragon” could have been filmed before Wong’s film, but even if it wasn’t, it proves that Kaneshiro takes direction very well. The plot synopsis printed on the back of the “China Dragon” DVD states the following: “Siu-yin and Siu-long are selected to be the representatives of China to take part in the ‘International Martial Arts Competition’ held in Hawaii. They have encountered two brothers, and become friends. At the same time, they discover that Professor Kong has stolen the official document, and intends to have a deal with Jack Su [Tsui Kam-kong].”
Yesasia.com summarizes the film as “Wacky comedy director Chiu Yen Ping reteams with the irrepressible ‘Shaolin Popey’ kids for ‘China Dragon,’ a low-brow kung-fu comedy” in which “the Shaolin Temple sends Siu Yin (Yip Cheun Chun) and Siu Long (kung-fu kid Shih Hsiao Lung) to Hawaii to take part in a martial arts competition…at the same time, the Chinese government sends an agent to locate code keys to some nuclear weapons before they fall into the hands of a notorious gangster…Siu Yin and Siu Long are eventually charged with rescuing the agent, along with a couple of new allies: a handsome local boy (popular heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro) and a rotund butterball (Hao Shao Wen) who’s responsible for the comic relief and bathroom humor…Ping loads “China Dragon” with his usual foolproof audience-pleasing elements, including copious kung-fu from young Shih Hsiao Lung, the usual wacky shenanigans from an often naked and humiliated Hao Shao Wen, and the unparalleled eye-candy of Takeshi Kaneshiro! Fans of the ‘Shaolin Popey’ films need look no farther than ‘China Dragon!’
Though both abstracts highlight the nonsensical aspect of the narrative, the latter provides background information on the cast and crew that contextualizes the zany comedy. It might be funny and feature two adorable little boys who engage in Little Rascals-type antics, but it is no innocuous children’s film. Scatological jokes, what could be considered child abuse, and pastiche parody make “China Dragon” something that only adults could comprehend or even begin to appreciate—on an intertextual level. Specifically, there is a sequence where Kaneshiro’s character daydreams in reference to “The Lover” (directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Jane March), “Sex and Zen” (Michael Mak), and The Butterfly Lovers story (or Liang ShanBo and Zhu YingTai). If you don’t get these references then this particular segment becomes just another example of the film’s (superfluous) peculiar humor. There’s also that part where Shao-Wen’s character wears painted clothes, including an elephant’s face. When he sits on a bench next to a few old ladies, the camera cuts to a close-up of an elephant, whose trunk intrigues one of the women. She tells her friends, “It’s real.” He responds in Mandarin, “What, you’ve never seen one of these before?” Definitely not for kids.
Every week, Stina Chyn puts her viewing habits in your hands. Readers vote on five random words posted at Back Talk every Tuesday. The winning word dictates what she will have to watch and review the following week as that word must appear in the title of the movie. Choose wisely!