Enter The Fat Dragon (1978)

Directed by
Sammo does Bruce justice
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-03-11

Sammo Hung plays Ah Lung, a young pig farmer from the New Territories whose father decides it's time he left the house and sends him off to Hong Kong to work in his uncle's restaurant. As a massive Bruce Lee fan he's keen to see the city, and approaches the various low life he encounters there with the same righteous indignation as Bruce does in his films. Luckily he has studied his idol well and can emulate his moves with real skill and speed, but the thugs he puts down aren't going to just walk away and forget it.

I've always thought that the best way to show your respect for a friend who dies is to parody them in a movie, and it seems that Sammo agrees with me. To be fair, the movie is really making fun of Sammo himself and is very respectful to Bruce Lee. Sammo pulls off Bruce's trademark mannerisms and noises to a tee, clearly showing his love for his friend and mentor. A scene where he is recruited as an extra in a film starring a Bruce Lee impersonator (of which there were many in those days) allows him to deliver the film's message directly:

Bruce Lee is my hero. You can't destroy my idol.
Try harder if you want to imitate him.

And then he shows you what he means.

Enter The Fat Dragon 099

Sammo was in superb form at this time, and the speed and power behind his moves is remarkable for somebody who is - as everybody points out - quite fat. He was also on top form as an action director, choreographing and executing a series of high impact fights, sophisticated and innovative and beautifully filmed and edited, they raised the bar for how martial arts should appear on film. Bruce would have been proud.

It is also a great showcase of Sammo Hung's budding vision as a director, a film which is clever and genuinely funny as well as being a great martial arts film. It kicked off a streak of absolute classic films from Sammo that left Hong Kong cinema transformed in its wake (that's not to dismiss Jackie Chan's role in that reshaping, of course - the two were clearly on the same wavelength).

The film is obviously low budget but makes effective use of outdoor locations to really capture the squalor of the seedier parts of Hong Kong in the seventies. It looks completely unlike the Shaw Brothers films of the era, unmistakably more modern (albeit also more dated by its contemporary setting).

For almost any other director ENTER THE FAT DRAGON would be where their career peaked, but Sammo was just getting started and he produced so many classics after this that it's almost a forgotten entry in his filmography. It shouldn't be though, it's a really excellent film and quite an important landmark in the development of the martial arts genre.