Director Sunny Chan’s comedy/drama, Men on the Dragon, follows a group of working-class schmucks who seek to improve their lot in life. Their employer lays people off with the frequency of Trump administration scandals. And at home, the guys struggle to please their mothers-in-laws, girlfriends, and wives. When their company conscripts them into a dragon boat racing competition, the men unite to conquer their professional and personal troubles.
I only have one compliment for this movie, so I’ll get it out of the way first. Chan does an excellent job of utilizing the movie’s locations and production design to convey each character’s inner-turmoil. At work, the men line up like canned sardines in their dank, poorly lit locker area – it looks like a torture room from the Saw films. And the character’s homes are littered with physical representations of their emotional baggage. Men on the Dragon could use more of these storytelling nuances.
Watching the dragon boat races requires the patience of a saint. They’re stitched together with too many cuts and composed of shaky cam shots and extreme close-ups – it looks like a kid shot the races on their iPhone while buzzing from a sugar rush. These choppy segments are hard to follow and kill any sense of tension and drama from the races.
Every other aspect of this film is problematic. The actors go broad with the script’s thinly-sketched characters to wacky results. And the script thinks it’s being profound when characters make obvious statements like, “There are many problems you can solve as long as you face them.” Men on the Dragon alternates between silliness and big time melodrama but the final product isn’t funny or moving. Instead, the movie sits in an awkward middle ground that’s laborious to watch.