Salutations people! Get ready for another foray into the world of fighting flicks here on your favorite place to chop it up about them, Hai! Karate!! Next up is a Jimmy Wang Yu piece from 1973 called The Tattooed Dragon!! The revered Lo Wei directs here, and the film also stars James Tien, well-known role actor Lee Kwan and Sylvia Chang.
The Tattooed Dragon starts out overlooking a stretch of temple ruins somewhere in Thailand. We see Dragon(Yu)scampering over the ruins, running, running through the ruins to....what? We don't know because this goes on for the first couple of minutes. Then we see him come upon a group of dudes who look rough & scurvy gambling. Standing on top of a tall wall, he takes a brick and hurls it at them. After some words, and a brisk leap into their midst, he takes them on and proceeds to give out lumps but dashes away after taking the money from the refugee fund they stole back and makes a perfect swan dive through a hole in the wall to...somewhere. Why? 'Cause we gotta get to the opening credits, of course.
Leung manages to make it to a martial arts school to rest and try to heal from his wounds during the night. But the next day however, the robbers arrive and confront the school members in a brawl until Dragon awakes and steps in. However, after again beating down the main robber, he catches a blade deep into his thigh. But he escapes again, leaving the head of the school to cover him. Which earns him a mollywhopping. We cut to a farmer named Yeung (Sam Hui) and his dog, Lonnie. They lead a simple life, and it's one that might change if Ai Hsiang(Chang)gets her father to agree to their marriage. But as they talk, Yeung slips away in a quiet moment out of nervousness. He gets back and Lonnie comes to him to relay something strange at the river. Yeung finds Dragon unconscious on the riverbank. He gets his friend(Kwan)to help, and Ai Hsiang also gets involved.
Yeung reveals himself to be a fighter, actually training for a local Muay Thai bout with Kun. Kun wins money on Yeung's fight and gets the gambling bug. Remember this, we'll get back to it. Meanwhile, the robbers return to their boss, Leung(Tien) who takes the news of their defeat in a classy way. He then lets them in on his plan to build a casino in the town and capitalize on minerals there. They go ahead and build to huge crowds - which include Ah Kun. Uh-oh.
Why uh-oh? Well, if you're familiar with Lee Kwan, you know that homeboy is usually in a film for one of three things: comic relief, to move the film in a dramatic and downward spiral, and to meet a graphic demise. And so, we see Kun gamble and get into a rut. A rut that leads him to try to get credit, and leads him to get the deed to his house and land to get more money, even slapping down his wife IN FRONT OF THEIR KIDS. His wife then makes a drastic move which leads Ai Hsiang's dad to go to the casino to break things up. He gets beat up for his trouble. By this time, Dragon is healed up fully and agrees to infiltrate the casino with Yeung. They do and bust up the joint, grab all the cash and deeds and get to re-distributing to the people. Which doesn't sit well with Boss Leung at ALL. So he sets out to take revenge on Dragon and sets in motion a showdown for the town and its money.
The Tattooed Dragon is okay to a degree. It's interesting to see Jimmy Wang Yu in this because while he's doing this film in the midst of his tenure with Golden Harvest, it's a role that sees a bit of humility involved. I mean, the dude gets his ass handed to him early on which isn't new but it's how it happens. He hasn't been in a situation like this since the One Armed Swordsman days. Still, he gives his beatdowns with precision, and his final fight with Tien, while quick to the point of nearly being anti-climactic, has some flair to it. James Tien as a villain is meh. Yeah he gets a sneer here and there but overall he's just lounging around in clothes and patting the behinds of his two escorts. Sam Hui does okay as Yeung, a simple farmer trying to help Dragon. And that's the whole thing - the film is basic. By this time, Lo Wei had the rep of phoning some films in as a director, letting his star be the one to carry the flick. In watching, you may find yourself lose interest here and there. Even the dog, Lonnie shakes things up a bit doing his best Lassie impression but it's not much. As far as the fight choreography, it looks like it was just a matter of sticking to close quarter combat and nothing too acrobatic save for a moment here and there. The blood and gore is as minimal as the rest of the film overall. Bottom line, The Tattooed Dragon may be a film you just see for some Jimmy Wang Yu and not much else. You can find it online...
RATING: 2 OUT OF 5 DRAGON PUNCHES