In Invincible Dragon, brilliant detective Kowloon (Max Zhang) finds himself perplexed by a serial killer that is focusing on female police officers. When his fiancée becomes the killer’s next victim, Kowloon spirals out of control and returns to the world of fighting. However, when the murderer resurfaces, he is called back into action to hunt his old nemesis and, in the process, unlocks the truth behind their complicated past.
Directed by Fruit Chan, Invincible Dragon is a somewhat compelling mess that fluctuates between gritty crime drama and wild fantasy. Though other films have been able to balance these two tropes well, Dragon doesn’t fully come together. While most of the battle scenes are well choreographed (the fight on the subway car is particularly of note), the story doesn’t always justify the action. To it’d credit, the film does showcase the incredible physical skills of its cast, especially the wonder that is Max Zhang. Balancing some solid acting with his physical abilities, Zhang demonstrates his incredible range as an actor and performer. As the violent and vicious Alexander Sinclair, Anderson Silva has less material to work with as an actor but shows off a particularly brutal side in his fight sequences that blends well with Zhang’s speed.
On the other hand, despite the quality of the action, the mystery storyline often finds itself bogged down with too many characters and subplots to keep things moving. Although moments between Kowloon and his therapist work well, scenes with other police officers either confuse or simply slow the film down. As a result, the film feels like somewhat of a mixed bag of success and missed opportunities.
Having said this, Dragon does highlight the power that our mental health can hold over one’s soul. Burdened by the loss of his fiancée, Kowloon has become obsessed by his own inner fury. Though he is receiving treatment from his therapist of holistic medicine, he refuses to grapple with what lies within. For Kowloon, to be vulnerable in spirit only serves as a reminder of what he has lost. Blaming himself, he struggles to quell his inner demons in the face of his mission. In doing so, Dragon becomes somewhat of a fascinating look at mental health—an issue rarely examined in a martial arts film—as Kowloon seeks not only revenge but to heal.
Interestingly, Kowloon’s journey is juxtaposed with that of Sinclair who is also dealing with grief. Though Sinclair claims that both he and Kowloon ‘are the same’, in truth, their primary difference lies in their methodology. For instance, unlike his more valiant counterpart, Sinclair opts to use his pain to empower him, as opposed to seeking healing. In other words, whereas Kowloon is willing to explore the hurt within his mind, Sinclair embraces his rage and uses it as fuel for his actions. In this way, a refreshing twist, Dragon draws the line between hero and villain by the way in which they grapple with the pain of their past.
Featuring some incredible stuntwork and the seeds of some incredible ideas, Invincible Dragon feels like it could have been a ground-breaking entry into the martial arts genre. Unfortunately, muddling storylines and uneven pacing ultimately lead to a much murkier outcome, proving that the film is far from Invincible itself.
Invincible Dragon is available on demand.