Donnie Yen is a staple in the world of good quality kung fu movies. His major fight with Jet Li in Once Upon a Time in China II is one of the best fight scenes around. He’s shown off some awesome moves as the father of the celebrated Wong Fei Hung in Iron Monkey. When Michelle Yeoh played pupil to the legendary woman warrior Wu Mei in Wing Chun, Yen was the love interest that was powerful and skilled enough to be worthy of her affections. Another fight with Jet Li in a rain-pelted courtyard of a gorgeously gray Chinese tea house made the movie Hero totally worth experiencing on the big screen. So you can imagine the disappointment and horror fans felt when Yen showed up as a cool vampire ninja in Blade II back in 2002, only to be unceremoniously killed off in the middle of the film by super mutant vampire spawn — without an elaborately choreographed fight scene!
Enter Dragon Tiger Gate, a 2006 film starring Donnie Yen based on a successful comic book. The execution of this film could have been done in a less campy manner, and I’m sure the comic book version of the story is probably a very cool read. Too often, they sacrificed plot development for artsy film style, and the only complex character is Yen’s love interest, a girl from an opposing gang who is in a love-betrayal-devotion relationship with Yen’s character. Though choreographed by Yen with some fancy eye-catching moves, the fight scenes sometimes degenerate into special effects that lack the backbone of solid martial arts action. Nevertheless, Yen gets his revenge for the Blade II debacle with one really special scene where his rippling muscles glow with an otherworldly blue aura. Touché.