Donnie Yen and Andy Lau are Superb in 60s-70s Hong Kong Drug Money Saga CHASING THE DRAGON

Well Go USA Brings the Kowloon Crime Epic to Blu-ray

It’s a great time to be a fan of Donnie Yen and Andy Lau. Yen has made some long-overdue Hollywood breakthroughs with Rogue One and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, and just within this month, Lau’s US fans have been treated to all three of his 2017 films on Blu-ray — Shock Wave, The Adventurers, and now Chasing The Dragon.

Chasing The Dragon’s cover art and opening credits both list Andy Lau’s involvement as a “Special Appearance”, which might worry viewers that he’s just a glorified cameo. Fret not, as not only is he the top supporting character (arguably the co-lead), but the pair deliver one of their most thrilling and memorable films in recent memory.

Based on true events and persons, Chasing The Dragon — that’s some Hong Kong drug slang — chronicles the saga of unlikely drug lord Crippled Ho (Yen), and his friend on the police force Lee Rock (Lau), who favors and enables his gang — both of them profiting richly as a result.

The tale starts before all this though, introducing us to both men as ambitious young firebrands — Ho as an illegal immigrant who turns to crime only to survive and aid his family and friends, and Rock as a rising detective who realizes the only way to succeed in the corrupt police force is to take the system as it is. They strike up an early friendship that continues even as Ho becomes more heavily involved in organized crime.

This is a sympathetic portrayal. While both characters are criminals — one a gangster and the other a corrupt cop — the setting and circumstances are an extreme that pits them as the protagonists. Ho takes to crime in order to scrape out a living and pay off debts, and eventually reunite with his wife and child whom he left behind in China. Rock overlooks Ho’s criminal behavior knowing his moral code and sense of honor, and later allows and even helps Ho’s criminal empire to flourish because it establishes a new and better status quo, dismantling the influence of more violent gangs and consolidating power under someone he can trust — someone is going to run a criminal empire in Kowloon, and he’d prefer that it be his old friend. And, yes, this puts a lot of money in his own pocket. This all plays out in a British-controlled Hong Kong, pitting the more corrupt officials and gangsters as the film’s villains.

This is a terrific drama that analyzes these two characters with strong themes of family and loyalty. While not primarily a martial arts film, it still has some great fight scenes that fit into the context of the story, one of which features rising star Philip Ng. The film also has a strong sense of style depicting the era, and if you have any nostalgia or appreciation for classic 60s and 70s Hong Kong flicks, some of that sensation is replicated here in the set design, music, fashion, and storytelling. Check out the trailer (linked below) to get a taste.

If I’m forced to nitpick, the earlier scenes depicting 53-year-old Yen as a moppy-haired youth are a little distracting, but in the context of a film that spans decades it’s a pretty forgivable and probably unavoidable flaw. (Meanwhile at 55, Andy Lau somehow remains ageless as ever).

Chasing The Dragon is actually a throwback to a trio of 1991 films. Andy Lau reprises his role as the title character of Lee Rock and its sequel, but the film is also a remake of the Crippled Ho story previously told in To Be Number One. (Kent Cheng and Ken Tsang from that film also return here in different roles, likely as a deliberate nod to the original).

The Package

Chasing The Dragon arrives on Blu-ray this week from Well Go USA in a combo Blu-ray + DVD package. A standard DVD version is also available.

The disc also includes an English dub in addition to the default Cantonese track.

Special Features and Extras

Trailer (1:44)

These Well Go USA promo trailers also autoplay on the disc’s startup.
Brotherhood of Blades II (1:45)
The Adventurers (1:33)
The Swindlers (1:28)

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:

Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have slight compression inherent to file formats. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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