Dragons Forever (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Jan 18, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Dragons Forever (4K UHD Review)

Director

Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, Corey Yuen

Release Date(s)

1988 (January 10, 2023)

Studio(s)

Golden Harvest/Paragon Films (88 Films)
  • Film/Program Grade: B-
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A

Dragons Forever (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!

Review

Dragons Forever (known as Cyclone Z in Japan) was the last film to feature Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao working together on a film, and its arguably their best. Offering a mix of martial arts action with romance and comedy, it’s considered to be one of the finest showcases for all three. The credited director is up for debate as both Hung’s and Chan’s names were on the slates (as evidenced by the outtakes), but the results were nonetheless entertaining. Like many that came before and after it, Dragons Forever offers a plot that’s a little muddy and gets sidetracked by potential love interests and character development, but the amazingly-choreographed and filmed action sequences and stunts are what you’re paying your money for.

Jackie (Chan) is a lady-chasing lawyer who’s recently been hired to defend a chemical factory that’s been polluting the water supply filled with fish owned by Miss Yip (Deannie Yip) who, along with her cousin Wen (Pauline Yeung), has filed a lawsuit. The company turns out to be a front for a drug ring, run by the ruthless gangster Hua (Yuen Wah) and his right-hand man (Benny Urquidez). Unaware of this at first, Jackie employees his friend Wong (Hung) to spy on and potentially court Miss Yip, hoping that she’ll eventually settle out of court. Meanwhile, Jackie also instructs his friend Tung (Yuen Biao) to bug her apartment. Things don’t go as planned when Jackie falls in love with Wen and Wong falls in love with Miss Yip. They’re soon backed into a corner, forced to try and stop Hua and his men, but also win the case against them.

Dragons Forever was shot by cinematographers Jimmy Leung and Joseph Cheung on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. 88 Films previously released the film on UHD as a UK exclusive, and now they bring that same release to the US with what is assumed to be the same recent 4K scan of the original camera negative, graded for high dynamic range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included). Three versions are offered: the Hong Kong cut, the Japanese cut, and the International cut. Outside of the alternate content and different languages, each version offers its own set of opening and closing credits sequences. Regardless of which version you choose, it’s a mostly satisfying viewing experience, and it’s the best the film has ever looked on home video. In particular, the HDR options elevate and enhance what’s normally an unremarkable color palette, allowing for a variety of deeper hues and inky blacks. The consistently high bitrate gets the most out of each moment as well. The obvious flaw is the grain structure, the majority of which is well-attenuated, but can be occasionally uneven. The picture is less than satisfactory during the court room scenes in the last thirty minutes, where it appears that a lesser scan was used as evidenced by the damage that’s been cleaned up, but hasn’t disappeared completely. These are minor caveats, however, as the overall presentation is otherwise terrific, appearing stable, clean, and organic throughout.

Audio is offered for all three versions in Cantonese Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), Cantonese 2.0 Mono, and English Mono Hybrid—the latter two DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. Also included is the 2002 English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio remix created by Fortune Star for the Hong Kong cut only, as well as subtitle options for all three versions in English and English SDH. The obvious choice are the two Cantonese tracks if you’re going for performances. The English 5.1 remix isn’t very good sonically or otherwise, but the original English Mono Hybrid is not quite as poor. It’s also much flatter than the Cantonese Mono, lacking any real low end. In any case, the Atmos track is one of the better options, widening the original soundtrack with decent placement, occasional sweeping moments, and good response from the surrounding channels, though the overheads are a bit underutilized. All of the tracks are clean and clear with discernible dialogue, some less obviously overdubbed than others.

Dragons Forever on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case alongside a 1080p Blu-ray copy of the film and a double-sided insert featuring new artwork by Sean Longmore on one side and two Hong Kong Golden Harvest theatrical posters on the reverse, front and back. Next to that are six Hong Kong lobby card reproductions. Also included is a double-sided poster featuring the original Hong Kong Golden Harvest theatrical poster artwork on one side and more new artwork by Sean Longmore on the reverse, as well as an 88-page booklet featuring the essays The “Three Brothers” and Dragons Forever by Matthew Edwards; The Women of Dragons Forever by C.J. Lines; and multiple stills, posters, and behind-the-scenes photos. Everything is housed in sturdy hardcase packaging featuring the same new artwork as the insert. The following extras are included on both discs in HD:

  • Audio Commentary with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema (Hong Kong Cut)
  • Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng and FJ De Santo (Japanese Cut)
  • Elite Stuntman: An Interview with Chin Kar-lok (39:17)
  • Writing for the Dragons: An Interview with Script-Writer Szeto Cheuk-hon (47:48)
  • Benny Forever: An Interview with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez (24:36)
  • Discussing Dragons Forever (7:00)
  • Hong Kong Cinema Forever (6:05)
  • Working with the Three Dragons (6:15)
  • Double Jeopardy with Brad Allen (26:36)
  • Beyond Gravity with Joe Eigo (13:02)
  • Kick Fighter with Andy Cheng (38:46)
  • Thai Breaker: An Interview with Billy Chow (34:11)
  • The Legacy of Dragons Forever (2:33)
  • Outtakes and Behind the Scenes Footage (12:57)
  • Music Video in English or Cantonese (2:55)
  • Additional Cantonese Dialogue (:40)
  • English Trailer (2:20)
  • Hong Kong Trailer (3:13)

The first audio commentary, which is included on the Hong Kong cut only, features Hong Kong cinema experts and film historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema. Information about the film is provided, but it’s more of an appreciative track as both men are huge fans of the film. The second audio commentary, which is included on the Japanese cut only, features Asian film expert Frank Djeng and writer and producer FJ De Santo. It’s absolutely packed with information about the film and those who created it, also highlighting the additional scenes and offering some criticism. Djeng primarily does all of the talking, pumping out information rapidly, while De Santo interjects to discuss the various topics at hand with Djeng.

Next are a series of interviews, including Elite Stuntman with actor and stuntman Chin Kar-lok, Writing for the Dragons with screenwriter Szeto Cheuk-hon, Benny Forever with actor Benny Urquidez, Discussing Dragons Forever with cinema professor David Desser, Hong Kong Cinema Forever with film historian Mike Leeder, Working with the Three Dragons with martial artist Jude Poyer, Double Jeopardy with martial artist Brad Allen, Beyond Gravity with martial artist Joe Eigo, Kick Fighter with martial artist Andy Cheng, and Thai Breaker with martial artist Billy Chow. The Legacy of Dragons Forever offers very brief thoughts on the film by filmmakers, actors, and martial artists Troy Sandford, Chris Jones, Steve Lawson, Ross Boyask, Maria Tran, Mike Leeder, Jean-Paul Ly, Mark Strange, Mike Moeller, George Clarke, and Jude Poyer. Also included is a set of Behind the Scenes Footage and Outtakes (an essential for a Jackie Chan film), and a Music Video in either English or Cantonese for the theme song When We Touch, sung by Anita Mui and Jackie Chan. Last are the film’s English export and Hong Kong trailers.

Not included from the Splendid Film Region B German Blu-ray release is an additional audio commentary with Hong Kong film expert Bey Logan, the documentary Dragons Remembered, and Cigar Smoking, an interview with Yuen Wah. This is an otherwise highly comprehensive and satisfying package for longtime fans of Dragons Forever, featuring all three cuts of the film and a bevy of bonus materials to dig through in attractive packaging. For them, this release comes highly recommended.

- Tim Salmons

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