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cover: Dragon Fight (Long zai tian ya)

Dragon Fight (Long zai tian ya)

Director(s): Billy Tang

Theatrical Release: 1989

Cast: Jet Li, Stephen Chow, Dick Wei, Nina Li Chi, Tom Spinoza, Mark Williams

Genre(s): Action, martial arts

Countries: Hong Kong

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Hong Kong filmmaker Billy Tang, best-known for the gruesome sex thrillers Red to Kill and Run and Kill, directed this well-cast, American-lensed martial-arts action film starring internationally renowned fighter Jet Li. Li plays Lee Kwok-lap, a famous acrobat with China's martial arts team who goes hunting for their aging ex-star Wong Wai. Wong has decided to defect while the team is at the San Francisco airport planning to return to China after an exhibition. During his search for Wong Wai, the acrobat misses his flight back home and is stranded in the United States, but things quickly get even worse as his wallet is found beneath the corpse of a police officer whom Wong killed, and Lee is implicated in the murder. Lee knows he is being railroaded and has no chance of beating the rap, so he breaks free from police custody and seeks shelter at the home of one of his biggest local fans, Yau (Stephen Chiau, in an uncharacteristic early role). While Lee is dealing with these problems, Wong is advancing in his criminal career, working for San Francisco crime lord Marco (Henry Fong). Wong starts reaching for more power than Marco is ready to relinquish, so he tells the police about a drug deal with which Wong is involved. This leads to a big shoot out which ends up with Yau making off with a large bag of cocaine which he then decides to sell in order to make some extra money. It's a bad idea, as it gives Wong the impression that Yau and Lee are working together, leading him to attempt having them both murdered. Some impressive martial arts choreographed by Dick Wei (who also co-stars as Wong Wai under the name "C.I. Tu") enlivens this standard actioner co-starring Nina Li. -- Robert Firsching (