Often compared to The Swordsman and the Zatoichi films, Dragon Inn is a classic Taiwanese wuxia film directed by King Hu referred as one of the best directors of wuxia cinema; a Chinese martial arts genre mostly containing martial arts swords-play with a single leading protagonist. King Hu is known for many wuxia films showcasing a female hero, including A Touch of Zen and Come Drink with Me. A more recent example of wuxia cinema introduced in Hollywood would be Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000). King Hu is best at creating uncertainty; he also knows how to throw in some rather humorous action, and expressions that give off a slightly pantomime-like feel.
During the Ming Dynasty, Tsao, the Emperor's first Eunuch, has successfully sentenced the commander of the Emperor's army to death. Unhappy that the Emperor has let the commander's children live in exile, Tsao sees to it that they are executed. This turns out to be tricky and he calls for a group of top assassins who plot to end this chase at Dragon Gate, an isolated inn which they commandeer from its poor owner. Also lodging at the Inn is an extremely well-skilled swordsman Hsiao, friends of the inn's owner with a righteous moral compass, he fights for justice. As tension is built between the solo swordsman and this group of assassins, more mysterious lodgers show up and it becomes a battle of wits and brawn as they all attempt to figure out each other’s motives.
The isolated setting which takes up the majority of the film has really helped build incredible tension and nail-biting suspense. The inn is a small location that creates a slightly claustrophobic atmosphere where this mixed bag of characters are forced together full of mistrust and chaos. There is a lovely sense of mystery to the characters; you have no idea what their exact actions are going to be, you can't predict who will start the next battle which you are constantly waiting for. If you are looking for a non-stop Kung Fu action flick, this isn't the one. However, the rhythmic choreography is very creative, the martial arts swordplay is astounding and aesthetically pleasing; it's a wonderful dance to watch. There have been remakes; New Dragon Gate Inn (1992) and again in 2011 with The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. Hu's style and knack for spiralling chaos after amplifying so much suspense is the crucial element of the original that has not been repeated in these updates. As a tension based film do not expect it to be packed full of punch, nonetheless it is still a must-see for fans of classic Asian cinema especially with such a well-balanced equilibrium of drama and action.
Extras: Documentary / Interviews / 36-page Booklet.
DRAGON INN (1967) / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: KING HU / STARRING: YING BAI, CHUN SHIH, FENG HSU / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 26TH