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Original Title:
Maang lung

Hong Kong 2005


Daniel Lee

Vaness Wu
Shawn Yue
Eva Huang
Xia Yu
Lawrence Chou
Sammo Hung
Michael Biehn
Heo Jun-ho
Simon Yam
Maggie Q
Li Bingbing
Ken Tong
Andy On

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Dragon Squad

Story: A special squad, composed of high profile members of different units, is assigned to escort the brother of a drug lord to court. However, the guy is getting kidnapped by the gangsters Petros (Michael Biehn) and Ko (Heo Jun-ho). The five members of the special squad, cop Hao (Vaness Wu), Hong Kong Cop Lok (Shawn Yue), undercover cop Suet (Eva Huang), sniper expert Lu (Xia Yu) and James (Lawrence Chou), being lead by their new boss Hon ("Simon Yam") soon pick up the trail of the gangsters.
Petros wants to take revenge on drug lord Tiger (Ken Tong), thus the kidnapping of his brother. Ko on the other hand wants to settle an old score with cop Kong Long (Sammo Hung). Through Tiger's old girlfriend Ching (Li Bingbing) Petros tries to get his hands on Tiger and a microfilm with valuable data.
After several gunfights the "Dragon Squad" Team, now getting a helping hand by Long, goes on a hunt for the gangsters on their own. The last decisive battle seems to be unavoidable...

Review: There is only one word to describe "Dragon Squad": messy. And maybe also "silly", "illogical", "pathetic", "ridiculous" etc. Well, that's everything there is to say. So why are you still reading!? Fine, I'll not back out of my obligation and go a little bit more into detail...

I shouldn't have ignored the alarm bells ringing when the name Steven Seagal was to be read as executive producer. Because it comes exactly as you should have expected. We have a silly action-flick, made for an international audience, that is already numbed by similar stupid Hollywood flicks and doesn't demand anything great from a movie anymore, let alone a decent script.
To make a long story short (well, not really), storywise there is almost nothing to be found. At the beginning we are bombarded with a never-ending flow of nonsignificant information and there are numerous characters introduced to us, so that we have to fear to loose track of events, eventually. However, the last thing this flick demands from the viewer is to use his brain. Actually, it would be wiser to turn your brain down for what's coming. It would definitely save you some nerves.

The several characters are introduced to us in stylish flashbacks, including black and white freeze-frames, which may be quite cool at first. Still, after the umpteenth repetition, even towards the end, you somehow start to wonder why the protagonists and their special abilities (the sniper, the weapon expert etc.) are again and again introduced to us in "Power Rangers" style? This becomes really ridiculous with time.
However, that's not everything that's laughable. Not a single one of the special squad members or any other guy/woman seem to have a brain in their head. The dialogues are just embarrasingly stupid. For example: "They changed tactics.", after a gunfight. What tactics!? There is just plain stupid shooting going on! Moroever, there is Long who is handing a cigarette to his badly wounded buddy in hospital, whereupon he suddenly dies (well, cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health, you know...). Even the more funny is that the Dragon Squad team seems to have no real superior, which basically means that they just do what they want when they want.

It's also really a bad idea to try to get behind the individual characters' motivations. Apart from numerous plot holes, there are illogical mistakes, too. Maggie Q somehow manages to construct and set a complex trap for her enemy in a few seconds during the last sniper duel, while the viewer is still amazed about when she found the time to do so while also shooting every other second. And what the hell about the important data that is stored on a microfilm!? Who still uses a microfilm for this? Newsflash: It's the year 2005!
Anyway, somewhere along the way we have surrendered to this silliness brought onto screen and don't care anymore about the shallow characters, the pathetic dialogues, the wanna-be-philosophical musings of Hao, or the insignificant seperation of the movie into several chapters. If you are past this point, then there are actually some things that prove to be quite neat.

Which brings us right to the action sequences. There are a lot of shootouts and they are all captured surprisingly well, with some zoom-ins, good dynamic camera movements and flashy/cool scenes that are also served with lots of adrenalin. Meanwhile, you even don't care about the fact that the same gangsters who just shot numerous cops in a row (one shot - one kill), don't manage to hurt our five special team members even once in a several minutes long shootout sequence. It would be pointless if you would let yourself still getting bothered by this.
There are lots of shootouts and as already said they look quite professional and definitely serve as the movie's highlights. The sniper duel even comes with an extra portion of thrill and there are even some few little martial arts sequences that found their way into the movie. The only fight, that really deserves to be mentioned, however, is the one between Sammo Hung and Heo Jun-ho which gets its climax in a bloody knife battle. In general you can say, that the film is quite brutal and at times even unnecessarily bloody.

Even though there isn't much of a story and despite the fact that the characters are drawn very one-dimensional, there are some nice approaches. The villians are everything but your nice guys, yet they somehow seem very human, at least when it comes to Heo Jun-ho and Michael Biehn. Especially Biehn brings a small amount of three-dimensionality into the movie with his little love story with Ching. The same goes for Sammo Hung with his brief and corny relationship to his daughter. At least we get something, here. Because even though the rest of the characters is introduced to us shortly, too, there is never aroused any interest in them.

"Dragon Squad" is silly action popcorn-cinema, which looks like quality-stuff on the outside, but actually can't deliver anything. Well, maybe I'm losing myself there, because as already mentioned, the action scenes are well made and even though the film is running a bit too long, you'll never really get bored.
If there weren't some dead among the main characters, which by the way doesn't really get near to us and thus isn't any kind of spoilering at this point, we wouldn't be aware that this is actually a Hong Kong movie. With its look and its international appearance, it seems to be more of a Hollywood flick. With all the flaws that come with it...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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