New Dragon Gate Inn (1992)

Posted in Reviews by - February 18, 2016
New Dragon Gate Inn (1992)

Superb remake of King Hu’s 1967 classic which pays homage to Hu’s revisionist wuxia approach and stands as a high-water mark in the early 90s rebirth of the wuxia film, spearheaded by visionary ‘new wave’ filmmakers like Tsui Hark, Raymond Lee and Ching Siu-tung, who each take directing credits on this film. This whirlwind of a production provides expert choreography and top performances throughout. Taking a more modernist approach to the story, this version shifts the focus away from Shih Chun’s scholar and instead focuses on the plight of the resistance fighters Zhou Huaian (Tony Leung) and partner Qiu Moyan (Brigitte Lin, who embodies Polly Shang Kwan’s cross-dressing female knight-errant quite magnificently), who are each headhunted by evil governmental eunuch Cao Shao-qiu (Donnie Yen). Cao is the head of the Ming dynasty spy agency, the Dong Chang, and has eyes on even wider dominance over the imperial court with the backing of his own personal army. When one of Cao’s ministers is executed as a political defector, he calls a hit on the rest of his fleeing family, which is when rebels Zhou and Qiu step in to protect the orphaned children and ensure their safe passage to the isolated Dragon Gate Inn. But Cao has other plans and schedules a raid on the inn, hoping to finally kill off his adversaries. The inn – captured with great desolation by award-winning cinematographer Arthur Wong – is a foreboding desert-bound enclave which acts as a microcosm of the jianghu (which loosely refers to the ‘martial world’ central to wuxia fiction). Tsui Hark creates an addition to Hu’s world in the form of flirtatious innkeeper Jade (Maggie Cheung, who truly shines in this film). Jade seduces her guests before killing and robbing them. She then disposes of the bodies via the meat pies served in her kitchen. This macabre Sweeney Todd twist adds a darkly comic tone, and by making the innkeeper female (unlike the role played by Cho Kin in the original), Tsui develops a romantic element between Jade, Zhou and Qiu. But these lighter touches are limited. This is a mostly dark, sinister and claustrophobic film, punctuated by lavish and radical action scenes which culminates in an astonishing three-on-one battle in the Gobi desert which will blow your socks clean off.

AKA: Dragon Inn; New Dragon Inn.

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