I don’t think it comes as any surprise that the main reason audiences tend to watch martial arts films are the action sequences. There is a reason that these films have a tradition of implementing action directors, as well as a primary director of the entire production, and that is not for consideration of plot or character development. Invincible Dragon has two action directors, likely responsible for the film’s greatest asset, but it also has a plot as focused on a mystery as it is kicking ass. If only the screenplay and direction by Fruit Chan (Dumplings) was as consistent as the action choreography, this Chinese martial arts-mystery would have been highly watchable. As it stands, the successful moments of martial arts fighting are enveloped by the tonally inconsistent narrative that surrounds them.
Like many cop films, Invincible Dragons begins with an undercover operation that doesn’t quite go as planned. Although dragon-tattooed cop Kowloon (Max Zhang) manages to capture the bad guy, he does so with such extreme (to a point nearing slapstick) violence that he is demoted to a remote rural station. Shortly after arriving at his new placement, a serial killer begins targeting female officers. After failing to capture the killer in a sting operation, Kowloon holds himself responsible for the mistake that leads to the disappearance of his police officer fiancé.
A year later, Kowloon spends his time searching for his long-lost fiancé and holding on to the past. He takes out his frustration with underground boxing, returning to the hobby he had before leaving the force. When the murders begin again in the city he is in, however, Kowloon is pulled into the investigation. Along with his knowledge of the case, one of Kowloon’s old rivals in the ring (played by Brazillian mixed martial artist Anderson Silva) becomes entangled in the case. Even with the entire police force trying to solve the case, it soon becomes clear that Kowloon may be the only one capable of making any real progress.
Often throughout Invincible Dragon’s 99-minute run time, I found myself longing for the next action sequence. When the stilted dialogue stops and the fists start flying, this is not a terrible film. Unfortunately, the plot is often more interested in the bland mystery and unaffecting melodrama. This is not helped by the fact that Anderson Silva’s lines are mostly delivered in broken English and acting unintentionally reminiscent of Tommy Wiseau, or the oddly dark and campy tone inserted by director Fruit Chan into certain sequences. As mentioned, it isn’t enough to have good action. And that’s too bad, because Invincible Dragon does have that, if nothing else.
The Blu-ray release for Invincible Dragon does not come with any extras worth mentioning, not even an alternate viewing method. What it does have is a high definition presentation of a spectacle driven film.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4.5/10
Historical Significance: 2/10
Special Features: 0/10