Dragon Inn Review: A 1990s Martial Art Movie Starring Donnie Yen

Dragon Inn is yet another Ming Dynasty swordplay epic that features a bunch of power-hungry eunuchs and Brigitte Lin dressed up like a guy. Still, it ain’t half bad.

Those pesky eunuchs are at it again! Set during the Ming Dynasty, Raymond Lee’s Dragon Inn (Tan Long Mon Khach San) details the trials and tribulations of the Chinese people as they live under the oppressive rule of the East Chamber, a powerful eunuch court led by the nefarious Tsao Siu-Yan (Donnie Yen). Two do-gooders by the name of Chow Wai-On (Tony Leung) and Yau Mo-Yin (Brigitte Lin) save a couple of innocent kids from the fiendish clutches of the East Chamber only to find refuge at the titular Dragon Inn, a sort of rundown Motel 6 in the middle of a barren wasteland.

In this martial art film (phim hanh dong vo thuat), the heroic duo meet the gin joint’s sexy owner Jade (Maggie Cheung). A ballsy moll-type who doesn’t mind killing a guy or two in order to make a tasty pork bun. Soon, the disguised East Chamber goons end up staying at the inn. Eventually engaging in a tense game of cat-and-mouse with the nervous young rebels.

In a setup worthy of Casablanca. Our pair of heroes hope that the innkeeper will smuggle them out via her secret passageway. However, considering the presence of the eunuchs. The audience begins to wonder whether the lure of earthly riches will tempt Jade to the dark side.

Though the cinematography and the all-star cast help brighten the proceedings. Some viewers might be bored by film’s plot. Which upon closer inspection is a thinly veiled commentary on the 1997 Hong Kong handover. But even so, all is forgiven by the time Donnie Yen (Chung Tu Don) shows up in the film’s gory. All-hell-breaks-loose finale. In an ending duel that has to be see to be believed. Yen battles our trio of heroes as a sandstorm rages on, threatening to consume all of the combatants. The duel alone is so exhilarating and over the top that it makes the sometimes-plodding Dragon Inn worth the price of admission.

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