Stars: Frankie Chan, Max Mok, Yukari Oshima, Jeff Falcon, Michel Miu, Shelia Chan
Director: Frankie Chan
Reviewed by Steven Ruskin
Dragon Dynasty looks to be back after what appears to have been a longer than expected hiatus. Outlaw Brothers comes from the Golden Age of Hong Kong films, roughly 1980 till about the mid nineties. The plot is very simple. Two guys named James and Bond steal cars. They specialize in Porches. A bad guy muscles in on their action and they switch to Ferraris. Frankie Chan, who also directed, and Max Mok are very likeable in the roles. After a bit a very pushy police detective named Tequila, played by Yukari Oshima gets wind of this, suspects drug running and takes off after them. That’s about it. There are a few nice fight scenes early on and some flash car scenes. The film sags in the middle thanks to a dull romantic sideline between Chan and Oshima. Things start to pick up later on with a nice car chase that features the classic bit with the vehicles driving on their sides. However the climatic and rousing fight sequence that ends the film is a great send off and duly rewards those who hung in there.
The bad guys have a hostage and Frankie Chan is going to make a trade with their cocaine. Everyone is placed strategically. It looks like the trade is going down. When the suitcase that is supposed to hold the cocaine is found to contain snakes instead the bad guys get upset and are poised to start trouble. The following bit lets you know you are watching a real HK flick. Oshima fires off a few well placed shots into some crates suspended from the ceiling. The crates open up releasing hundreds of chickens and roosters all over the place. Feathered mayhem and fighting are triggered . People get tossed into handy stacks of cigarette boxes which are piled up to the ceiling everywhere. Just what kind of warehouse has tons of cigarettes and roosters? It’s a great scene with lots of excellent stunt work and choreography. Jeff Falcon shows off some real prowess with a fan. Oshima packs a mean kick. That last giddy fifteen minutes elevate the movie considerably. Rumors abound that Jackie Chan had a hand in staging some of those stunts. People fall from heights and rebound like Olympic athletes over and under railings. Several bits do indeed look like his signature is on them.
Despite all the chirping on the interwebs about dubtitles and various inequities theses Dragon Dynasty releases serve the very worthwhile purpose of getting titles like these into a more mainstream audience. The Shaw Brothers films have quite a following but for me the Golden Age films from the eighties into the mid nineties offered a huge cornucopia of fun. Genres combined and clashed into an intoxicating mix of fists, crazy stunts, car chases, set destruction, incredibly sophomoric jokes, buddy-buddy flix, and dark fantasy. There is the wholesale borrowing of other film’s plots as well as snatches of recognizable songs and soundtracks. Amidst the myriad sequels and hectic output there is also the occasional outright gem that outshines all the others. There was an appetite for filmmaking in Hong Kong then that had some of the excitement of the early American industry from the twenties and thirties. Some of these film seemed like they made them up as they went along much like the silent action and comedy two-reelers they resemble.
For long years fans had to make due with dubious VHS dubs of dubs to even see them at all. The upgrade when the DVD format arrived brought a huge improvement in picture quality even though many of them never quite got the kind of treatment they deserved. The film elements were just not cared for nor were many of them shot with an eye toward anything more than the movie’s opening barely a month or two ahead. For fans of no holds bared action a good Hong Kong Flick is hard to beat. Outlaw Brothers is not long on the cool or the sexy, but does deliver some devilishly creative stunt work. It is a yeoman level dose of solid action and for what it is, it does the trick.
1.85:1 Anamorphic. Much of the colors are pretty bold here. There is a general softness but nothing that detracts from the film. Overall it is very satisfying with a few scenes offering some surprising sharpness. The cars at night look slick. Everything is clear in the fight scenes within nice wide framing.
Canton Mono or English Mono track with subtitles offered in English and Spanish. The native Canton track is the way to go here. The subtitles are more faithful to the dubbing track than what is actually being said earning them that “dubtitle” designation. The mono track is not very punchy.
Nothing. There are trailers for a pair of other Dragon Dynasty DVDs – Fist of Legend and The Killer.
On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic:
Movie – Good
DVD – Good