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4K UHD Review: 88 Films’ Dragons Forever (Collector’s Editon) 

Dragons Forever

Jackie Chan stars as a hotshot lawyer that takes on romance and drug dealers with help from Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung in Dragons Forever.  88 Films impresses with the 4K UHD disc filled with special features

The Film 

Dragons Forever takes on romance, comedy, and action with the skill and style that few films currently do let alone in 1988.  This heady cocktail from director Sammo Hung and star Jackie Chan is equal parts heartwarming, hilarious, and hard-hitting.  A winning combination for anyone that is looking for the unexpected in their Martial Arts.  

Jackie Lung (Chan) is an ace hotshot lawyer so in demand but clueless he raises the interest of drug dealers using a chemical factory as a front for their drug organization.  Jackie good of heart but of questionable moral compass enlists his two friends Wong and Tung (Hung and fellow real-life friend Yuen Biao) to help him get the upper hand on his opponents.  Those happen to be a Fish Catchery Owner and her cousin who happens to be an environmental scientist.  Lung and Wong get romantically entangled with the ladies which eventually creates a mess of a trail and a final showdown between the drug dealers and Jackie, Wong, and Tung.  

What has always separated Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung’s films especially comedies from other non-HK-based action comedies is their insistence on the balance between comedy and action. Not just in the level or amount but in every conceivable detail. The comedy is treated with the same reverence and complexity of the action on display. This is where Dragons Forever excels even beyond some of Chan’s best work. There’s a more screwball antics here with slapstick occurring but not as much as there is the sort of upstairs-downstairs complications that occur. 

This appears to be Director and Co-Star Hung’s touch as there is the sort of feel that Millionaires Express has to its comedic stylings than say Chan’s more physical comedy ala Meals on Wheels. The result is a film that works as well as a romance as it does as an action vehicle without the sort of danger and peril faced by Chan in his normal comedic entire. 

That is not to say they Dragons Forever lacks in action. Quite the opposite. Chan and Hung working together bring the sort of choreography and brilliance we are used to seeing from them. The boat lunch surprise attack is the kind of marriage of Chan and Hung’s respective styles for the best possible result.  Though Dragons Forever keeps the best fights for last with Chan, Biao, and Hung all facing off against villains that keep to their respective character arcs much to the delight of this reviewer.  The bonus in this amazing pop culture sundae … Benny “The Jet” Uriquetiz shows up and delivers some bad guy kicks to an already overflowing film.  

Dragons Forever is peak Chan, peak Biao, and peak Hung.  A long way of saying it’s a nearly perfect Action Rom-Com.  

The Transfer(s) 

The Three Versions boast the following:

4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of the Hong Kong Version [94 mins] in original 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio

4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of the CYCLONE Z Version [98 mins] [Produced exclusively for the Japanese market, this Cantonese-language version includes two extra scenes and an ending with outtakes]

4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of the International Version [94 mins] [Commissioned by Golden Harvest for international audiences outside Asia] 

“Ultimate Edition” is a term loosely thrown around these days.  88 Films in their three presentations of the three different versions is the Ultimate Edition one could ask for.  Each of the images are handsome, sharp, and made with the theatrical presentation in mind.  What this means is that 88 Films has made sure that the film hasn’t been digitally scrubbed to death (the dreaded DNR) and allowed the film(s) to breathe with a beautiful sheen of grain.  This along with the Dolby Vision Encoding create a verbose, beautifully rendered image that retains that liquid photochemical feel that only – until 4K UHD – came with a freshly struck 35mm print (or the occasional rare 70mm print if you were lucky enough to see films in 70mm).  Another word that is bounded around too often as well with transfers is “Perfect”, but this is the rare case where Perfect is applicable.  88 Films have truly outdone themselves with this presentation.  One can only be excited for their future in 4K UHD if Dragons Forever is a taste of more to come.  

The Packaging

88 Films has gone above and beyond with the Label’s first US Hardbox packaging, this is brimming with extra-value content.

Included with the 4K UHD + Blu-ray is a Double Sided Poster, Booklet, and Double Sided Lobby Card recreations.
The Front of the Lobby Card recrations
The Back of the Lobby Card Recreation
Front – Newly Commissioned Poster Art
Back – Original Poster Art
Inside the Booklet 1 of 4
Inside the Booklet 2 of 4
Inside the Booklet 3 of 4
Inside the Booklet 4 of 4

The Extras

They include the following; 

  • Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng and FJ DeSanto [Japanese Cut]
  • Audio Commentary with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema [Hong Kong Cut]
  • Elite Stuntman: Interview with Chin Kar-Lok
  • Writing for the Dragons: Interview with Szeto Cheuk-Hon
  • Benny Forever: Interview with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez
  • Discussing Dragons Forever: Interview with David Desser
  • Hong Kong Cinema Forever: Interview with Mike Leeder
  • Working with the Dragons: Interview with Jude Poyer
  • The Legacy of Dragons Forever Featurette 
  • Double Jeopardy: An Interview with Brad Allen
  • Beyond Gravity: An Interview with Joe Eigo
  • Thai Breaker: An Interview with Billy Chow
  • Kick Fighter: An Interview with Andy Cheng
  • Out-takes & Behind the Scenes 
  • English Trailer 
  • Hong Kong Trailer 
  • Music Video (English) & (Cantonese)
  • Additional Cantonese Dialogue

The all-new Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng and FJ DeSanto on the Japanese Cut is an informative and entertaining track.  Opening with Djeng and DeSanto giving their bonafides and their love of this film and others.  Some of the details include the film’s opening and box office success (or lack thereof), how this was a Chinese New Year film, how this character differs from the normal Chan character at this point, shooting the film silently – and the voice work done by Jackie’s voice actor, the speed at which they filmed the production, where Sammo and Jackie got their nicknames, the work of Yuen Biao and casting against type, a larger discussion about the trio being cast against types, this being the last of the trio being on screen, an almost reunion that fell through on Millionaires Express, the Japanese version and its lack of success, Sammo’s work and casting himself against type, the difference between the Japanese cut and the Hong Kong Cut – beyond the stunt outtakes, Djeng’s admission he worked on the Laserdisc version of the film, a discussion about Chan having to hide his marriage for years because of his status as a superstar and heart throb – including a few serious incidents, the various cameos by actors and performers – and the reasons why they showed up, what defines a Jackie Chan “action scene” and a Sammo Hung “action scene”, this being the first time that Sammo’s lip scar is address – how Sammo actually got the scar, the pizza world chain – and why it is no longer a chain in Hong Kong, how the romantic comedy aspects affected the success in Japan, the work of Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and how it is essentially a rematch from Meals on Wheels, a larger discussion about the action and how the film utilizes each of the performers for maximum effect, a discussion of the outtakes that appear in the Japanese cut – and how the outtakes were a requirement from the Japanese distributor for all Jackie films, and much more.  Djeng and DeSanto’s track is a relaxed affair giving us not just well-researched information on the production but making it a fun time for all to be had.  

The second Audio Commentary is with our favorite commentating duo Mike Leeder and Arne Venema on the Hong Kong Cut.  Leeder and Venema open their track by humming the Golden Harvest title theme and a fun discussion about the multiple titles of the film and how and where they saw this.  Some of the other details include a discussion about the melding of Sammo’s more violent style and Chan’s more comedic style, the infamous slap by Chan – and how this effected the popularity of this film, the appearance of Roy Chiao, a great discussion of seeing a bootleg version of the film and their first time seeing it on DVD, a discussion of the dubbed versions of the film – and how these were all shot silently at the time, a larger discussion about Yuen Biao and his never finding a true hit post-Three Brothers film the way that Sammo and Jackie, a discussion about the various versions and how complex and different they all are, a side discussion of the locations specifically the apartment that Sammo takes residence in and just how expensive it would be even in 1988, a discussion about Sammo as an on-set prankster, a discussion about Yuen Biao and working with him professionally, a hilarious side conversation about Stephen Chow – prefame and working on Children’s TV show, a larger conversation about homages to international films (non-HK Films) in this film and others, a discussion about why machetes show up more in HK films than guns – a great side discussion about a weird criminal occurrence that happened, a discussion of the stunt work of Jackie Chan in this film – which leads to a larger discussion of the stunt teams, famous performers and now currently Chan being around 65 still has it, the lack of time in the shorten schedule – to make the CNY release date – that caused a lot more stunt doubling and additional issues that caused this, the cultural difference between western dating traditions and eastern/HK/Chinese traditions – how this informs Romances in films like Dragons Forever, a side conversation about phones and pagers, the climate in HK that leads to a funny aside to wearing a duster ala A Better Tomorrow, the box office returns and success or the perceived failure, the love theme sung by Jackie Chan and Anita Mui, Sammo’s favorite movie being The Sound of Music and a hilarious anecdote about this fact, discussion about a project that almost happened with the Three Brothers but never happened, the different approaches that Sammo and Jackie take to direction and multi-cam setups, Chan’s singing career and just how big it was and still is, a discussion of Benny Urquidez both professional and personally, a discussion about the finale and multiple set pieces – including stunt work and performers and why things were done, and much more.  Leeder and Venema again bring it for this track.  The duo comes out fast and furious bringing their patented funny, entertaining, and thoroughly researched commentary to this film.  

Elite Stuntman: Interview with Chin Kar-Lok (39:17) – this all-new featurette with actor/stuntman Chin Kar-Lok covers the career of the legend.  Some of the details include how he got his start in the HK Film industry, the usefulness of the Martial Arts for Film, what was life like for stuntmen in the 1980s – the heyday of HK Action cinema – how all of the different disciplines from various parts of the world converged and created a heady stew of creative innovated action, his thoughts on the safety of the stunts at the time and how Chan brought safety precautions from the West, the collaborative nature of the various stunt teams (Jackie’s, Sammo’s, and Yuen’s teams each interchanging), the hierarchy of how the action scenes were designed, and much more.  We rarely get Stuntmen interviewed for special features for Western films it is an utter delight to hear Chin discuss his craft over a long form interview.  Bonus points for pointing out the moment where Chin shows up in the finale.  Another win for 88 Films and their understanding what fandom wants out of these special features. In Cantonese with English Subtitles.

Writing for the Dragons: Interview with Szeto Cheuk-Hon (47:48) – in this all-new featurette with Screenwriter Szeto discusses his career and writing Dragons Forever.  Some of the details include how he got his start in the HK Film industry as a writer first in television then eventually moving to Films [with producer Tsui Hark], his first credit on Hark’s third film, how he eventually became part of the screenwriting team for Barry Wong, his thoughts on Wong’s work – who is considered one of the premiere writers in HK Cinema, the reasons and how Dragons Forever came together and why it was directed by Sammo Hung, how the production writing occurred because of the short time period of how the film came together, an interesting conversation about what is a “Jackie Chan Film” – how this is not one and how the films come together for the overseas market and attaching him – and how the screenwriting was informed by the requirements to appease that market, an interesting anecdote about Sammo Hung’s generosity towards the older generation, a very frank discussion about how much they made as screenwriters during that era and today, and much more.  Szeto’s interview is an illuminating featurette about the writing of the film and also a larger portrait of a working screenwriter in HK in the 80s and 90s.   In Cantonese with English Subtitles.

Benny Forever: Interview with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez (24:36) – this interview with the Kickboxing Champion turned Actor begins with giving a personal account of how many of his family (including his mother and father were wrestlers).  Some of the other details include a story about seeing Bruce Lee at a tournament that changed his life, a detailed account of his professional martial arts career – including a great story about Muy Thai – and its turn to his creation of Kickboxing, some great footage of Force Five – his first film, a discussion of his methodology to acting,  how he met Jackie Chan – and was cast in his first Jackie Chan film, working with Chan, a discussion of the production of Dragons Forever and much more.  In English. 

Discussing Dragons Forever: Interview with David Desser (7:00) – this interview with Desser begins with his first Jackie Chan film, Project A.  Desser discusses what makes Jackie Chan such a big star in only in Hong Kong but in America – additionally why the early Chan films are so special which culminates in a discussion of Dragons Forever.  In English.

Hong Kong Cinema Forever: Interview with Mike Leeder (6:05) – in this all-too-brief interview Leeder gives us a context of why this – the last of the Three Brothers Films – is so good, a personal account of Dragons Forever – including a hilarious discussion the conditions in which he saw the film for the first time, and more.  In English.

Working with the Dragons: Interview with Jude Poyer (6:15) – the stuntman/performer Poyer discusses having worked with Sammo Hung and what makes – in his eyes and experience – him such a great director (action director or otherwise), having worked with Hung on Knock-Off and The Medallion.  Additional comments and anecdotes about working and the performances of Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao. In English.  

Double Jeopardy: An Interview with Brad Allen (26:36) – in this archival interview with the late legend Stunt performer and Choreographer Brad Allen begins with how he got into martial arts as a discipline and what attracted him to the work of Jackie Chan (specifically Drunken Master).  This career-spanning interview leaves no stone unturned in which he discusses how he eventually got to China and study marital arts his first HK Stunt Work (Drunken Master 3) and eventually began to work with Chan on Mr. Nice Guy, why/how he eventually joined Chan’s Stunt team, all which culminated in working on Gorgeous as the main villain, and much more.  Anyone that knows Allen’s career will appreciate the inclusion of this interview as Allen is the only non-Asian performer to be a part of Chan’s stunt team.  In English. 

Beyond Gravity: An Interview with Joe Eigo (13:02) – A fun featurette with martial artist and performer Eigo discusses his inspirations, how he met Jackie Chan, and eventually began to work with Chan as a stunt performer.  In English. 

Kick Fighter: An Interview with Andy Cheng (38:46) – is a long-form interview with Cheng beginning with Chan being his inspiration from Police Story.  Some of the details include how he applied and got in for what he didn’t realize was a Stuntman Class, being hired on as a stunt performer, how Chan inspired him during Rush Hour, and much more.  Cheng deep dives into the world of stunts and working with Jackie Chan.  In English. 

Thai Breaker: An Interview with Billy Chow (34:11) – another long-form interview with Muy Thai champion and performer Billy Chow begins at a match with Chow. With comments by Chin Kar-Lok, Timmy Hung – son of Sammo, Chin Siu-ho, Master Frank Lee – Chow’s Muy Thai trainer/corner man in between rounds one gets an understanding from the various people being interviewed who Chow is as a person and his work with Chan, Sammo Hung and other luminaires of the industry.  Chow does eventually show up, after the fight they filmed, to discuss how he got started in the industry, his relationship with Benny The Jet, how he eventually began to work with the likes of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung and his work on Dragons Forever.  This is by far one of the more fascinating approaches to a featurette I’ve seen in a while.  Again, smart move by 88 Films to include it here.  In English, Cantonese, and Thai with English Subtitles. 

The Legacy of Dragons Forever (2:33) – a featurette with today’s actors & martial artists including Troy Sandford, Chris Jones, Ross Boyask, Maria Tran, Mike Leeder, Jean-Paul Ly, Mark Strange, Mike Moeller, George Clarke, Jude Poyer & Steve Lawson discussing what makes the film so special beyond the elite action and comedy.  

Out-takes & Behind the Scenes (12:57) – a series of outtakes and b-roll footage from the production.  Of course, the prize is all of the stunt footage and mishaps that typically close out Chan’s film.  Interestingly, there is quite a bit of fan interaction in the footage. The footage runs over the score from James Wong Jim.  

English Trailer (2:20) – beautifully presented in HD. 

Hong Kong Trailer (3:13) – a much better cut trailer – at least for those HK Action aficionados.  Also beautifully presented in HD.  Cantonese with English Subtitles.  

Music Video [Cantonese] (2:55) – the original Cantonese version of the song that closes out the film.  The Music video is a series of production stills.  In Cantonese with English Subtitles.  

Music Video [English] (2:55) – the same music video just an English Language version of the song that closes out the film.  

Additional Cantonese Dialogue (0:40) – an additional piece of alternate dialog in Cantonese during Jackie and Mei-ling are out on their first dinner date. 

The Final Thought 

88 Films has created an exhaustive number of special features to go along with their superior picture and sound restoration of Dragons Forever.  Highest Possible Recommendations!!! 

88 Films 4K UHD edition of Dragons Forever is out now 

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