by Anthony King
When you push play on a Jackie Chan-Sammo Hung joint you usually know what you're in for. A goofy story, laugh out loud comedy bits, some of the best action sequences you've ever seen, and, especially in Jackie-directed movies, a blooper reel during the end credits. Heart of Dragon (1985) gives you a heartfelt story, a couple comedic moments, a few great action sequences, and no ending outtakes. For some this may dissuade them from sitting down with the film. For all it would at least warrant a raised eyebrow. I implore you to watch Heart of Dragon.
Meanwhile, Tat's new boss Inspector Wong (Melvin Wong), assigns him to a case following a local crime syndicate led by Mr. Kim (James Tien) and his two aides-de-camp played by Dick Wei and Phillip Ko. Dodo accidentally gets his hands on a satchel of diamonds belonging to the baddies, and after a series of unfortunate circumstances, is kidnapped by the gangsters. Going against orders Tat and his crew go after the syndicate, and in true Sammo-Jackie style, the film climaxes with a brawl in a high rise construction site. While typically a film of this nature from these two stars of the Hong Kong film industry would end in an all-smiles freeze frame, the film has a sort-of coda where Tat actually has to face the consequences for his actions. The film ends in a prison scene montage of Tat suffering a broken heart, and Dodo living his life on the outside. Worry not, viewer, because the brothers are once again reunited at the very end.
This isn't to say the movie is void of incredible action sequences and stunts. When Dodo shows where he's hidden the diamonds, he's kicked over the edge of a small cliff. Sammo, doing his own stunts of course, does a backflip over the railing, landing on his back, and rolls down a steep incline through heavy brush. There's a long car/dirt bike chase that seems a bit out of place and a little long but is nevertheless amazing and fun as hell to watch. At the beginning, we see Jackie wielding a machine gun, something we've rarely, if ever, seen. The final battle scene between the cops and gang is full of incredible fight choreography, eye-popping stunts, and breathtaking cinematography and editing. The camera always seems to be moving, which was Sammo's intent since he primarily used a dolly for the entire end fight scenes. And we see Jackie straight up murder a guy with a pick axe. The drama may be heavy and plentiful, but the action doesn't so much take a backseat as it's just riding shotgun for this film.
While all that is well and good, the real reason to buy this edition is for the two different cuts of Heart of Dragon. The first is the original Hong Kong theatrical cut (91 min.) that is most known the world over. The second is the Japanese extended cut (98 min.) that includes a commentary by producer, consulting translator, and historian Frank Djeng and producer, writer, and Jackie Chan superfan FJ DeSanto. The Japanese cut of Heart of Dragon includes music sung by Jackie Chan, two big fight scenes completely cut from the Hong Kong version, and an end credits blooper reel (the only Sammo-directed/Jackie-starring movie that has it). The first of the two fight sequences takes place towards the beginning when Tat is assigned to take a strung out junkie to a methadone clinic. Two of Mr. Kim's thugs are inside, prepared to kill the junkie, and Tat must fight them off in typical Jackie fashion. The second fight scene occurs after Tat meets Jenny at her restaurant. Tat and his comrades fight a gang in the restaurant's parking lot in a scene that gives equal camera and stunt time to all participants. Mr. Djeng's and Mr. DeSanto's commentary is jam-packed with information on shooting locations, actors' filmographies, and, while there are times when the gushing becomes repetitive, it's incredibly thoughtful and helpful in pointing out what scenes are missing from the Hong Kong Version.
Blu-ray release date: April 11, 2023
91 minutes/98 minutes/1985
PCM Mono (Cantonese, English, Mandarin)
Subtitles: English (SDH)