Sunday, February 8, 2015

In short: Bridge of Dragons (1999)

In some sort of geographically and temporally unsound place and time that enables the good people of NuImage to wildly throw various costumes and props they found squirreled away somewhere together without any care for coherence or unity of mood and theme. Evil warlord General Ruechang (the inevitable Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) has been reigning over an unnamed kingdom for years now, just waiting for Princess Halo (Valerie “Rachel Shane” Chow) to get old enough for him to marry her.

Of course, Ruechang is responsible for the “accident” that killed Halo’s parents, and of course, she only learns about this shortly before her marriage. Not that she wanted to marry the crazy military dictator before, but now she’s so pissed she rides off on her wedding day. Ruechang sends Warchild (Dolph Lundgren), his best man, after Halo. Yet, while retrieving Halo and rescuing the kidnapping-prone woman from rapists and kidnappers, Warchild finds himself soon with divided loyalties, for he and the princess fall in love.

For a film directed by the saintly champion of awesome low budget action Isaac Florentine, and starring the paragon of Dolphness, Dolph Lundgren, Bridge of Dragons (I have, by the way, not the faintest idea why the film’s called this, nor is the film telling) is a rather mild pleasure.

It’s neither the fault of Florentine’s handling of the action, which is impressive as always, nor of Dolph, who had a rather good month when shooting this and has seldom looked more mobile in his fight scenes. The problem lies with a script that really doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing nor what it wants to do, slowly shuffling Warchild and Halo (and seriously, what’s with the names?) to one place only to take them back to a different place one or two scenes later, with little that’s a proper or useful set-up for the action sequences. For most of the film’s running time, the script is dithering, introducing a lame rebel army only to slaughter it in a minor assault five minutes later, introducing Halo as a secret stick fighting badass only to find her kidnapped four to six – depending on your count – times, and always making one step forward and one step back, presenting itself as utterly unable to give Florentine a frame on which to hang the things he does best.

I would like to blame Dolph and Chow for the tepid and anti-septic air of their Great Romantic Love but again, the script doesn’t provide much – if anything – for them to work with; but what do I expect of a movie that doesn’t even properly use Tagawa’s well-known scenery-chewing abilities as it should?

Usually, I’d argue that an action movie doesn’t need that deep a script, particularly not when the action is in the right hands. Bridge of Dragons, however, truly suffers from the failings of its writing, with hardly a scene going by where something potentially awesome isn’t wasted through an improper set-up or through feet-dragging of a kind I’ve seen in no other Florentine film. I don’t care much that the film is dumb, but I care a lot about the fact it seems to sabotage everything that could be fun in it, never deciding on a tone or a theme it isn’t going to ignore at least two scenes later completely.

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