Donnie Yen has been a reliable source for martial arts action for decades now, creating memorable characters and films along the way. His Ip Man series rivals Jet Lee’s Once Upon a Time in China series in scope and impact, while films like SPL (aka Killzone) and Flashpoint are utter classics of the 00’s. So seeing Yen sign on to this poorly conceived fat suit comedy is just baffling. Sadly the only thing Enter the Fat Dragon shares with its much better Sammo Hung predecessor is the film’s title.
Yen plays Fallon Zhu, a renegade cop who’s known for his reckless ways. After his latest tear through the streets of Hong Kong though, Fallon is demoted to the evidence room. To further complicate matters, his lower-level actress girlfriend (Niki Chow) calls off their marriage and leaves him. Zhu proceeds to eat his feelings, adding 100 pounds in 6 months – hence the Fat Dragon of the title- until a chance at possible redemption comes in an assignment taking him to Japan. Of course, while there he uncovers police corruption and runs afoul of the yakuza almost immediately, and supposed hilarity ensues.
Playing like the worst Melissa McCarthy films, Yen’s weight is brought up for laughs without anyone really caring as to why this documented health nut would balloon up in weight in such an incredulously short time frame. It doesn’t help either that his prosthetic chin looks like it could melt off his face at any second and fat suit is never convincing for a second. And unlike, say, Simon Yam’s muscle suit in the classic Running with Karma which was just realistic enough in certain sequences while keeping its tongue firmly in cheek, Yen’s suit here fails in both those respects.
One of the most questionable decisions from the directing team in the inclusion of footage from the aforementioned Flash Point and SPL near the beginning of the film, trying to incorporate them as Fallon’s backstory. This attempt to boost Fallon’s badass characteristics only made me want to turn off the film and watch those other films again instead. The opening car chase sequence felt ripped off from a classic Jackie Chan film and Yen’s normal hard-hitting, gritty realistic style of fighting is swapped out here for goofiness. The only real action sequences of note both come towards the end of the film where Yen is pretty much let loose, the only reason why this film ranks as high as it does.
Talking about the performances here doesn’t seem to matter much, but I’ll attempt to anyways. Yen just seems horribly miscast from the very beginning. Yen’s style is very contradictory to that of Jackie Chan’s, but you can’t help but feel as though they took a script designed for Chan and shoved Yen in without attempting to change anything. The supporting cast never elevates above cookie-cutter, shallow caricatures, with very little material to work with, other than Wong Jing (playing a role Sammo Hung wisely passed on) who’s attempts at being the comedic relief of the piece fail way more than they succeed.
In fact, all the attempts at humor here simply dreadful, lowest common denominator type stuff. I may have chuckled once during the whole film, but then again it may have just been gas. The worst part about Enter the Fat Dragon was that before I watched this film I could safely say that if I saw Donnie Yen involved that I would find at least something to love about the film, and after this experience, I’m not sure that applies anymore.