Dragons Forever - 4K Ultra HD Blu-rayOverview -
Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao teamed up for a trilogy of Hong Kong action comedies in the ‘80s where they capitalized on their long-standing friendship to show off just how brutal and brutally funny they can be together. Dragons Forever is the capper to the trilogy and unsurprisingly, is a rollicking HK actioner that’s equal parts comedy and bone-crunching martial arts. 88 Films upgrades their previous Blu-ray releases of the film to 4K Ultra HD with a beautiful 2160p presentation aided by Dolby Vision HDR, a new Dolby Atmos audio track, all three cuts of the film and a truly massive selection of supplements. This release comes Highly Recommended!
Hotshot lawyer Jackie Lung (Jackie Chan) is hired to defend the owner of a factory which, unbeknownst to him, is the centre of a clandestine narcotics syndicate. He enlists resourceful acquaintances Wong Fei-Hung (Sammo Hung) and Dung Dak-Biu (Yuen Biao) to assist in the case, but loyalties begin to falter when romance blossoms between both sides.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
The trio of Hong Kong martial arts legends in Dragons Forever may have been each other’s greatest supporters in their respective careers, with Yuen Biao frequently cameoing in movies that had Jackie Chan in the lead and Sammo Hung producing movies that had Yuen Biao in the lead. But the trio would only team up and play main characters in a trio of bone-crunching HK actioners: Project A, Wheels on Meals, and Dragons Forever. Project A and Wheels on Meals are the most comedic of the three films, and how could anyone forget the 60-foot fall that Jackie took in Project A? Stunts like these only increased Jackie, Sammo, and Yuen’s star power in the West. While the trio’s relationship was forged under their time at the Peking Opera Academy, all three would become international superstars in their own respect.
Dragons Forever was produced to capitalize upon the huge successes of Project A and Wheels on Meals, as well as the huge star power of the three martial arts legends involved. Thus, you can expect the film to be rather crass in its execution, and the story certainly reflects that. In Dragons Forever, the trio play three friends – one who is a lawyer, another a gun dealer, and the other a cat burglar undergoing therapy -- who are hired by a chemical company and soon grow conscious of the company’s evil business practices, forcing them to make a difficult decision. The buck doesn’t stop there, though, as Jackie Chan plays a really sleazy lawyer who is seen in the opening scene trying to convince a rape victim to drop charges against her abuser.
The switch flips about a quarter into the film, as the trio turns against the chemical company once they discover they’re manufacturing narcotics that are poisoning the water. The story is simple, but the direction is anything but. This could be an easily pious martial arts actioner, but the first quarter of the film proves that there’s much joy to be found in the trio bickering and beating the hell out of each other. So, when the bickering ends and things get serious, the trio about-face and use their destructive power for good.
Dragons Forever is jam-packed with fights that you’ll never forget, like the final match between Jackie and Benny “The Jet” Urquidez where you can literally hear real bones breaking as they kick, punch and throw each other across an evil laboratory. And with that action comes some great comedic set pieces, like Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung infringing upon a dinner date between Jackie and the cousin of someone who he’s building a case against. Hung and Biao fling each other across the room and bicker like school children, and Jackie’s attempts to cover up their nonsense result in nonstop laughs.
Simply put, Dragons Forever is one of the great Hong Kong action films from the ‘80s and revels in each second of watching these three martial arts powerhouses work together. Aided by Sammo and Corey Yuen’s collaboration behind the camera, the film kicks ass and takes names, even despite the very problematic key romance at play.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
88 Films released Dragons Forever in the UK back in March of 2021. That release presented a brand-new 4K restoration of all three cuts of the film: Hong Kong Cut (94 minutes), Cyclone Z Cut (98 minutes) and the International Cut (94 minutes). This 4K release is sourced from the same restoration, which was terrific to begin with, and adds Dolby Vision HDR that truly brings the most out of the source.
The 2160p, 1.85:1-framed presentation overall looks very good, although film grain can look a bit unstable in certain sequences. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has griped about the quality of Fortune Star restorations, but it’s worth noting here that the encode handles that sometimes-uneven grain very well and lets the Dolby Vision HDR layer pull as many nuances out of the details as possible. Some of the courtroom scenes suffer from some clear damage at the source level. Looks like some clean-up was performed for these, though it’s still noticeable in certain sections. Overall, this is a very pleasing presentation that easily overcomes all those limitations to become the best this film has ever looked at home.
This 4K release of Dragons Forever comes stacked with audio options to choose from for all three versions, including the original Cantonese-language track presented in either Dolby Atmos or DTS-HD MA mono, a DTS-HD MA track of the English Mono Hybrid Dub and a DTS-HD MA presentation of the 2002 Remixed English 5.1 Dub. You simply can’t go wrong with any of these tracks, although I give the top prize to the Dolby Atmos presentation of the original Cantonese-language track. While there’s not much life given to the upfiring speakers, the Dolby Atmos track opens up the soundscape wonderfully, distributing dialogue and big moments throughout the surround channels very well. Dialogue is clean and nicely balanced with the score and effects, and the low end gets a nice boost in Atmos.
88 Films packs this 4K release of Dragons Forever to the gills with supplements. Although the majority of supplements were included with their 2021 UK release, this is the first time we’re seeing them officially in a US release and that should be celebrated. In addition to the laundry list of features from the previous release, this new limited edition comes with an 88-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the film from CJ Lines and Matthew Edwards, as well as promo materials and behind-the-scenes images, plus a large fold-out poster that has two sides and six replica Hong Kong lobby cards. The physical swag is more than nice, as the new writing by Matthew Edwards is an essential read. Extra points given for including the original music video for the theme song, which is sung by Jackie Chan and Anita Mui.
Worth noting here is that all supplements are included on both the 4K and Blu-ray discs.
- Audio commentary by Frank Djeng and FJ DeSanto (Japanese Cut)
- Audio commentary by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema (Hong Kong Cut)
- Elite Stuntman: Interview with Chin Kar-Lok (HD 39:17)
- Writing for the Dragons: Interview with Szeto Cheuk-Hon (HD 47:48)
- Benny Forever: Interview with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez (HD 24:36)
- Discussing Dragons Forever: Interview with David Desser (HD 7:00)
- Hong Kong Cinema Forever: Interview with Mike Leeder (HD 6:05)
- Working with the Dragons: Interview with Jude Poyer (HD 6:15)
- The Legacy of Dragons Forever (HD 2:33)
- Double Jeopardy: Interview with Brad Allen (26:36)
- Beyond Gravity: Interview with Joe Eigo (HD 13:02)
- Thai Breaker: Interview with Billy Chow (HD 34:11)
- Kick Fighter: Interview with Andy Cheng (HD 38:46)
- Out-takes and Behind the Scenes footage (HD 12:57)
- English Trailer (HD 2:20)
- Hong Kong Trailer (HD 3:13)
- English Music Video (HD 2:55)
- Cantonese Music Video (HD 2:55)
For bone-crunching Hong Kong-produced action, you can’t do wrong with Dragons Forever. 88 Films has bestowed the classic 1988 film with a definitive 4K Ultra HD limited edition, showcasing the 4K restoration in stunning Dolby Vision HDR and providing an expansive list of supplements for fans to enjoy. This release comes Highly Recommended!
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