The Real Dragon (1980)

Bad dubbing. Cheesy violence. Over-the-top, mustache-twirling-style villainy. Enough quick zooms to warrant viewers pop Dramamine over popcorn. Yup, “The Real Dragon” is routine Bruceploitation at its finest.

The genre is boiled down to its essence in “Real Dragon,” which has a formula and does not divert from it once. To call the movie predictable would be missing the point entirely — we don’t go to cheesy kung fu movies to be surprised. We just want our expectations to be met, and “Real Dragon” does not disappoint.

The story is charmingly simple: Good guy Chiang (Henry Yu Yung, the “Sonny Bruce” of the movie’s wildly deceptive ad campaign) is a fist-for-hire who promises his dying dad he’ll hang up his fists and assume control of the family farm. Sorry, old man, ain’t gonna happen. Soon enough, cartoonishly wicked gangsters have murdered Chiang’s loved ones and burned his farm to the ground. You think he’s just going to stand aside and let them get away with it?

The routine fighting sequences in “Real Dragon” could have come from any number of these Bruce Lee knockoffs that saturated the market following his death in 1973. And, granted, the only real surprise in the film is an amusing moment when a helpless bicyclist ghost-rides his bike into the guy who is chasing him.

Still, there is real charm to “The Real Dragon,” something typically lacking in a genre that usually inspires more yawns than “yay!”s. The hero is likable, the bad guys are delightfully boo-worthy (I particularly liked a pair of fan-waving baddies whose wardrobes matched the color of their weapons) and it builds to a predictable, yet satisfying, final showdown.

For kung fu fans, what more do you need?

Rated: PG for nonstop fisticuffs

Director: Lung-Hsiang Fang

Starring: Henry Yu Yung

★★½ (out of ★★★★)


Categories: 1980s

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