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Enter the Fat Dragon (2020)

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 02/17/20 13:35:09

"Donnie doesn't really need the fat suit to punch and kick a bunch of yakuza"
3 stars (Just Average)

This colorful, fast-paced bit of kung fu silliness works well enough that I'm not sure why they bothered to put Donnie Yen in a fat suit. It really doesn't affect how he moves or the story at all, and there aren't even that many jokes at the expense of his character's weight. Did someone just have the remake rights to Sammo Hung's film and figure it would add 5% to the take or something?

Yen plays "Fallon" Zhu Fulong, a cop whose career has stagnated because his ability to catch the bad guys is cancelled out by the collateral damage he causes, both in terms of damage to Hong Kong in general, within the HKPD, and with fiancée Chloe Song (Niki Chow Lai-Kei). In the aftermath of a bank robbery, he's reassigned to a property room, and not being able to exercise after an injury has his appetite way ahead of his metabolism, so he's packed on a hundred pounds before his old partner Shing Huang (Louis Cheung Kai-Chung) gives him a milk run mission to extradite Japanese porn director Yuji (Hiro Hayama) to Tokyo six months later. Easy, except that Japanese detective Endo (Naoto Takenaka) lets Yuji escape, interpreter Maggie (Jessica Jann) seems like something of an airhead, and the help Shing refers Fallon to is his old partner Thor (Wong Jing), who has been in Japan for ten years trying to stay close to Charisma (Teresa Mo Sun-Kwan) and her nephew Tiger (Lin Qiunan). Oh, and yakuza Shimakura (Joey "Tee" Iwanaga) just happened to see Yuji on the plane to Tokyo, where he was traveling with Chloe, who is big in Japan and has been hired as a spokesperson for one of Shimakura's fronts.

That's potentially a lot going on but also not quite enough as it plays out; for all that producer Wong Jing and his co-writers set up all these threads to follow, they all get picked up and discarded in fairly haphazard fashion. Wong Jing and Teresa Mo are plenty of fun in this movie, for instance, but all the time spent with them could maybe have gone to Fallon actually tracking down Yuji and realizing he's got to do more detective work because the crazy kung fu stuff is harder carrying this weight, giving Chloe something to do while she's in Japan (or, heck, deciding just how good/popular an actress she is, as that seems to change based on what a given scene needs), or the like. This sort of martial-arts comedy has never really needed a terribly coherent plot, but it seems sloppier than usual here, and more like a missed opportunity.

That's in large part because this is a fun cast that's determined to entertain without just mugging. Yen's Fallon is likably dorky even before he puts on the fat suit, calling a bunch of Yeun Woo-Ping's comic relief roles to mind, and he's got enough chemistry with Niki Chow that them heading toward a reunion doesn't just seem like by-the-numbers writing (as in the many times Jackie Chan's workaholic cops and their girlfriends barely seemed to even like each other). Jessica Jann brings a lot of energy to her scenes as Maggie and Naoto Takenaka does his comic relief well, while Joey Tee does well with both the nastiness and charm needed from the villain.

Plus, he's got the moves to look good in a climactic fight with Yen set in and around Tokyo Tower's rooftop restaurant, which may be the most important thing. Say what you will about the rest of the movie, but the three big action sequences are a lot of fun, with Yen leaping around big, brightly-colored sets and going for a lot more slapstick than his usual, even if director Kenji Tanigaki and the action team are still using the same sort of long takes that show him and his co-stars doing multiple moves before a cut that they do for Yen's less comedically violent movies. As mentioned, the fat suit really doesn't enter into the action - even the moments when a 250-pound Fallon bounds into an action scene don't get more than a half-second's reaction because the size never feels real enough to feel strange - but there's still a cartoon-like energy to how he leaps around.

That makes this "Enter the Fat Dragon" a Donnie Yen vehicle with a potentially tacky gimmick that probably could have done more but is still a pretty fun Hong Kong action-comedy. Similar to "Ip Man 4" a month and a half ago, Yen kicking his was from one yakuza to the next can cover for a fair amount of room to improve, and is almost always welcome on the big screen.

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