Century of the Dragon (1999) / Thriller-Action
MPAA Rated: Not rated
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Andy Lau, Louis Loo, Patrick Kam, Anthony Wong, Suki Kwan
Director: Clarence Fok
Screenplay: Wong Jing
Review published February 18, 2000
The duo that brought you the infamous Naked Killer are back with an altogether different kind of actioner in Century of the Dragon, reminiscent more of the Goodfellas/Casino kind of filmmaking Martin Scorsese is known for than anything else. In this gangster-opera we find an undercover cop with a task to take down a former mob boss who has reportedly gone straight. When the new boss of his gang is taken down by an unscrupulous cop, the job of crime-boss is left wide-open for the former boss to step right in. Problem is he doesn't want it, and the bigger problem is that the new boss's son wants it badly...enough to ruin his life for. There is a territorial war that erupts, and sonny boy will have his power thorugh any means necessary.
Century of the Dragon is a near-miss due to a predictable storyline and large doses of unpleasantness. The unpleasantness is so strong, that I would discourage pretty much anyone from viewing it regardless of their personal taste in movies or interest in the star-studded Hong Kong cast. Murder, rape, killing of innocent children, and graphic close-ups of people being maimed are but a few of the rather distasteful images depicted throughout Century of the Dragon, which undermine the potential for entertainment from the writing by the infamous Wong Jing (The Tricky Master, City Hunter) and directing of Clarence Fok.
When looked at with a critical eye, the quality of the movie itself isn't that bad on the whole. Choice acting, solid directing, good characterizations in the writing, and nice location work bolster the derivative (and many times nonsensical) storyline into a workable vehicle for the stars. Yet much of this lost amid scenes that make us wince with displeasure, and as the film builds to it's inevitable climax, we can but sit and hope that it will come to a merciful end as quickly and painlessly as possible. Century of the Dragon is a gangster soap opera that will have you reaching for the soap yourself to clean up the icky feeling you'll have at the end of viewing it.
©2000 Vince Leo