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Original Title:
Fei hap siu baak lung

Hong Kong 2004

Wuxia, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Wilson Yip

Cecilia Cheung
Francis Ng
Andy On
Nay Suet
Lei Liu
Shiu Hung Hui
Patrick Tang
Kitty Yuen

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The White Dragon

Story: Black Phoenix (Cecilia Cheung) is a rich and spoiled student in a girls' school. After a music contest, that she is the winner of, naturally, her greatest dream comes true. Prince Tian Yang (Andy On) invites her to his palace. That's also the same time when one of Phoenix' teachers gets killed by feared blind killer Chicken Feathers (Francis Ng). White Dragon (Nay Suet), who is after him, gets mortally wounded in a fight with him. She transfers her powers upon Black Phoenix, who henceforth has to struggle with acnae. Only if she does good deeds, which will improve her blood flow, she can cancel out her problem. So now she is fighting on the good side as White Dragon Jr.
When White Dragon Jr. finds out that Prince Tian Yang is the next target of Chicken Feathers, she goes after him. In a fight against him she breaks her leg, though. Chicken Feathers takes her to his home and attends to her wounds. While taking care of her, they both get closer and White Dragon Jr. gets to know that Chicken Feathers does only kill people who really deserve it. With the money he earns he wants to finance an expensive eye surgery, in order to be able to see again. White Dragon Jr. takes her chance and finds out Chicken Feathers' weak point, stripping him of his powers, so that he is in no position to eliminate Prince Tian Yang anymore, who did already propose to White Dragon Jr./Black Phoenix. Anyway, White Dragon Jr. now has to make up her mind who she really is in love with...

Review: "The White Dragon" is a genre mixture that doesn't know where it belongs, but nevertheless succeeds in being entertaining. This is mainly because of the loveable characters and director Wilson Yip (SPL: Sha Po Lang), who visually makes the best out of his unoriginal script.
Settled in an actually typical Wuxia-world, modern commerce in form of quite unsubtle McDonalds advertisement gets mixed in, and even the behavior of Black Phoenix reminds us more of that of a spoiled city resident girl including the appendant clique, than of that of a Wuxia-hero. Luckily, this changes in the course of the movie. The already mentioned gags, in which for example White Dragon transfers her powers upon Black Phoenix using a "Windows broadband connection" visualisation, are scattered throughout the movie, nevertheless. Some of these funny throw-ins work pretty good, others on the other hand will only make you groan.

However, one thing is for sure: "The White Dragon" doesn't take itself too serious. Which generally isn't something bad. If this style would have been like that thoughout the whole movie. Sadly, the movie doesn't try to be much of a Wuxia movie, despite some nice wire-work fights, but more of a romantic drama. The reason why this works better than one would have expected is because of the two main actors, mainly Francis Ng. It's his efforts that prevent the movie from becoming a cheesy romance.

Storywise there isn't anything new. No, on the contrary, you can't help the feeling to have seen everything at least once already. Anyhow, the movie seems to run on two different levels. The first one is as a Wuxia movie and the second is as a romantic drama. And most of the time there are also some randomly thrown in jokes. This is quite irritating for the viewer and prevents the movie from being successful on neither level.

Concerning the technique you have to give Wilson Yip some credit. The opening fight sequence in the bamboo forest is very impressive, with full colors, great camera movement, and although this scene might be nearly obligative for Chinese Martial Arts movies, qualitatively it is in no way inferior to the similar scene in "House of Flying Daggers". The fights are full of impressive wire-work. The actors/stuntmen spin around, do several flips, somersaults and fly through the air as if Newton's law of gravitiy is the greatest hogwash ever. Despite of all the beauty of this scenes you somehow will miss the good old Kung Fu school, because the fights aren't choreographed that breathtakingly.
Along with the good directing the costumes and settings will also please the audience, although sometimes you will be able to notice that one didn't have the budget of let's say a "Hero". Nevertheless, one did try to make the best out of it and that is one pretty good achievement, concerning the beautiful cinematography.

Cecilia Cheung does a solid job, though her performance isn't anything to write home about. At least she manages to convincingly present her change from the spoiled chit to the more mature Wuxia-hero.
Andy On as Prince Tian Yang does give an incredibly wooden and reserved performance. The rest of the cast's efforts is also not worth mentioning.
Highlight of the movie is without a doubt, Francis Ng. His portrayel of blind Chicken Feathers is just terrific. Some parts of his character are a overt allusion to Zatoichi, the blind Samurai. Yet, Ng's portrayle is somewhat more dumb, albeit in a charming and loveable way. When he is dancing around in the rhythm of White Dragon's flute play, then you just have to feeling to have a little child in front of you. However, Ng's performance is luckily a lot more multilayered than that and so he manages to give a otherwise one-dimensional character life.

Of course it's not just Francis Ng's efforts, that make the film work better than it should be supposed to be, but it's also the chemistry between him and Cecilia Cheung. Despite of what one would have expected, the chemistry is absolutely great. The scenes with them being in the hut together are even some small highlights of the movie. Because of them you are also willing to bear with some of the overly melodramatic scenes.
The music is quite good, too, adding to the nice atmosphere and accompanying the more emotional scenes. Even though it's more than obvious that Cecilia Cheung doesn't really play the flute, it's just these songs that are somehow loveable. Even some western classic music is covered in this scenes.

If you don't bother getting a nice to watch Wuxia-movie, which in its core is more of a romantic drama, that gets interrupted by some almost displaced jokes like rollerskating in the temple yard or midday tennis matches, then you most likely will be entertained by "The White Dragon". Francis Ng once again is in top form and even Cecilia Cheung will get the job done for most viewers.
Even though the genre mix doesn't work out the way it was supposed to be, the movie still delivers nice and light entertainment.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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