There’s a rule when it comes to 80s Kung Fu movies; If the “Three Dragons” (Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao) are in it, it’s probably a good time. These actors, who had grown up and attended the Peking Opera school in China together starred in a handful of films together, were known for being able to blend comedy and actin in a way that worked its way into the hearts of millions of adoring fans. With movies like Project A, Wheels on Meals, and several Lucky Stars movies under their belt, they decided to end things on a high-note with 1988’s Dragons Forever.
The basic plot is as follows: Jackie Chan plays a lawyer that has been hired to defend a factory owner (who is secretly manufacturing narcotics in his factory) in an environmental lawsuit. While courting someone that’s going to testify against his client, Jackie sends two of his friends, played by Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, to help tip the scale in his favor in court. What results from this is several fights between them that are spawned from misunderstandings, an excellent rematch with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez (who had previously been in Wheels on Meals, and the Three Dragons playing against type for a change…
Which brings me to my biggest gripe with the movie. Because he’s playing a scummier character than usual, it can be a bit hard to get into Jackie Chan’s character until partway through the movie, when his character starts to change his ways. I think it’s mostly the shock of seeing Jackie’s character defend a rapist in court, as well as the shock of him being a manipulative lawyer, but something about his character didn’t sit right with me for most of the movie. And while Jackie’s character does absolve himself of his behavior throughout the movie (such as when he beats up the rapist he had been defending in court, immediately after the case was closed, it really doesn’t do much to change how I perceived the character.
That gripe aside though, Dragons Forever is a lot of fun The plot is honestly paper thin and the characters do ultimately start to act more like the roles their actors are known for by halfway into the movie, but what really carries the film is it’s action sequences. Watching the Three Dragons go toe to toe after repeated misunderstandings is a lot of fun to watch, and so is Jackie and the gang going up against rival drug manufactors and the group Jackie was hired to defend in court. The action, and the brutality of it, makes this one well worth the price of admission.
Dragons Forever was the last movie made that featured the Three Dragons on screen at the same time and it’s honestly a great sendoff for the group. After this, Jackie Chan would go on to focus on his solo career, making sequels for his Police Story franchise, as well as breaking out in America with the help of Rumble in the Bronx, Rush Hour, and Shanghai Noon. There were also a few lesser, but also fun, movies like Around the World in 80 Days and The Tuxedo in there too, for good measure.
Wanna hear more of my thoughts on Dragons Forever? Feel free to check out my podcast episode on the film!