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Review Dragon Squad a.k.a. Mang lung (2005): Worth it because of the action! But everything else should be ignored.

genre: action, crime, bullet ballet

It's been a while I have seen this originally but for the sake of fairness I wanted to watch it again. That had proven to be quite difficult since I couldn't find the film. However after some intense browsing and searching I finally I got hold of a copy. First I will give my original thoughts then I will tell you what I think of the film today.

Original review written 27 january 2007 on imdb.com 

The cast in the movie do their best to give this movie an edge. That they fail at it is not their fault. Because at least they try to make something of it. When i heard that Michaell Biehn would star in this movie I honestly didn't know what to expect. A Hollywood actor in a Hong Kong film? Apart from the language barrier would Biehn be able to get with the program and fit in? To my surprise he (together with Jun-ho Heo and Sammo Hung) provides some good acting to make the story believable. 

As for the direction I am a bit disappointed. The first half of the movie is too chaotic for my taste. In the second half the action scenes do pick up. Nice shootouts and one big martial arts scene between Sammo and Jun-ho Heo. This is what the fans want. It is too bad the director didn't use the actors to their fullest potential. This is a flaw on part of director Daniel Lee. He did the exact same thing in What Price Survival which also was more style than substance. It is a shame to see he hasn't learned much from his mistakes. I don't mind people making mistakes as long as they at least try to do better.

The only reason this film works is due to to the cast who try their hardest to make the movie fun. That being said don't expect anything special, it's pretty average.

My thoughts now:

After having seen it for I think a third time (properly) after so many years I think I need to alter my initial thoughts somewhat. 

Action wise it's a whole lot better than I stated before. There are some truly exciting action scenes although some of the choreography doesn't flow well because of Daniel Lee's insistence on adding style and camera trickery when it's not needed. I mean how many times do you need to cut to the faces of the villains to establish it's them. We aren't all suffering from short term memory. You keep getting taken out of the action which is incredibly annoying. However with some patience I was able to enjoy the action.

I also had stated that Michael Biehn was solid acting wise. And yes non verbally he certainly is on the best of his game. Verbally however you can sense there is something off. It's the way he delivers his lines. If I had to guess this must be because he dubbed himself but probably was in a hurry so didn't take the effort to put his heart into it. At least that is what it sounded like. A real shame since from all the characters he actually has somewhat of an arc that is compelling. 

But what really makes this film hard to sit through is the slow and uneven pacing. This is because also in the non action scenes director Daniel Lee found it necessary to add style and camera trickery which gets super tedious very quick. On top of that it slows down these scenes that already have little to no substance to them. The film has a duration of one hour and fifty minutes but with barely a story in it you probably can imagine that this affects your viewing pleasure considerably.

Overall Dragon Squad a.k.a. Mang lung is worth it because of the action. I suggest to skip through all of the non action scenes since they won't do that much for you. The supposed dramatic scenes are predictable and have very little impact. I came up with my own plot elements to feel something for the characters. It's beyond me what Daniel Lee was going for. Although I think maybe in his mind he was making his own Hard Boiled. In one of the final scenes you can hear and see scenes from that masterpiece. It's safe to say that Daniel Lee obviously is suffering from delusions of grandeur. 

Some trivia for you. Apparently Bey Logan and Steven Seagal of all people was one of the producers of this film. I don't have a clue how he got involved with this. One of life's mysteries I guess. Buddies Philip Ng, Andy On and Vaness Wu also have a role in the film. Wu could even be considered the lead. Maybe he brought his friends on board. Ng also was active as action and stunt director. Maggie Q's role is small but decent as she is portrayed as a badass hitwoman. Fan Bingbing is adorable as the innocent girlfriend of a notorious crime boss who crosses path with Michael Biehn. And had Daniel Lee been a competent director he could have made their dynamics pop. But no, now it's just a pointless distraction in a film that goes nowhere. 

Overall this film will require a lot of patience from you. But the action is more than solid and worth it!

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