Dragon Inn (1992)Director: Raymond Lee
Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Kar Fei, Brigitte Lin
Tagline: Fillet o' Bad Guy
During the Ming Dynasty, the Eunuchs of the Eastern Chamber hold the real power and are totally ruthless. This is demonstrated in the way they kill prisoners by getting them to ride away on horses while they shoot at them with arrows with strange names.
Seeing him as an impediment on their way to power, the Eunuchs kill the Military Secretary Yang and then use his children as bait to try and trap Chow, an ally of the deceased.
The children are rescued, but not by Chow. It is Mo-Yan (Brigitte Lin) who rescues them with the help of the soldiers who were meant to be guarding them. They also get attacked by the Eunuch's Black Dragon Arrow Soldiers.
They manage to escape and they find themselves at the Dragon Inn, a meeting place/hidey hole/triad hangout. It is running by the cunning Jade King (Maggie Cheung) and also hides secrets in the form of its buns that contain 'Spicy Meat'.
During the night Jade King sneaks into where Mo-Yan is having a bath. They then both try to out-do each other by grabbing clothes from their bodies and Jade King ends up next to naked on the roof.
It is then she meets Chow (Tony Leung Kar Fei) and she immediately falls for him, but is disappointed when she finds he is with Mo-Yan. This doesn't deter her however and she starts scheming to claim him for her own.
While the Eunuch's soldiers are searching the inn during the night, two of Mo-Yan's group hide in the basement where they see the Barbarian Dao, who is the cook and also accounts for why there are never any bodies found when someone goes missing from the inn.
Seeing how desperate Chow is to escape, Jade King takes advantage of him as she wants a man. Chow sees through her plan and tells her he wants a traditional wedding. She gets her own back by nicking the flute from Chow that belonged to Mo-Yan.
The leader of the Eunuch's soldiers, Cha, agrees to be the elder and give away Jade, but he also wants to see what they are doing in her room as he suspects they are trying to get away.
Of all the Hong Kong movies I've wanted to see, this is the one I was most looking forward to. It was first recommended to me by a friend from Singapore during 1997.
The scenes in the inn reminded me of 'From Dusk to Dawn' and a lot of old style westerns. What this movie has that the others don't however, is one of the most incredible action sequences I have ever seen. The final scenes have some of the best action I have seen in a Hong Kong movie.
The cast is excellent, in particular Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. Even the bad guys put in great performances and are really evil, but very stylish also.
What I particularly liked about this movie was the way it built the tension during the scenes in the inn. The relationships between the characters in these scenes are also great as the people involved know what is coming and are just trying to get by in trying circumstances. In one scene it is almost like the characters can read the mind of the audience when they get sick of waiting and start a fight.
The setting of the inn is really great also. It reminded me of the old 'bi-level restaurant' set as seen in the grand old Shaw Brothers productions such as Golden Swallow and which also recently appeared in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. As with all great settings, it becomes a character in itself and has some surprises that contribute to the plot of the movie.
As I said before, the action scenes are some of the best I have seen in this type of movie - from the dramatic opening scenes to the intense personal affairs within the confines of the inn.
I thought the opening titles were great and really suited the style of the movie. The soundtrack is very dramatic and memorable also. What I remember most about it is the Middle-Eastern influence that I found really interesting.
I would recommend this movie if you liked the epic action of Hero and the love story of House of Flying Daggers in a different setting.