Director Kenji Tanigaki (2020), Sammo Hung (1978)
Starring 2020: Donnie Yen, Wong Jing, Niki Chow 1978: Sammo Hung, Roy Chiao
Alternative Names 肥龍過江 (2020) 肥龍過江 (1978)

This was one of the most highly anticipated Hong Kong films at the start of 2020 – a movie designed to keep audiences in the cinemas after Ip Man 4’s release and to remind them of what Donnie Yen is good at before the release of another highly anticipated film “Raging Fire”.

The original movie that Enter The Fat Dragon is based on is a Sammo Hung classic from 1978. A comedy homage to Bruce Lee and martial arts movies of the 70s, kind of what Scary Movie was in the 2000’s to horror films but without the stupidity, the original is a well-loved classic, and in this modern time who better than Donnie Yen to star in a remake.

Well, this isn’t a remake, but more of a “loosely based on” version of the original story. So, in this video we are going to do something a little different, we’re going to look at both films and tell you which one is the better version, so be warned there are spoilers.

Don't want to read all this text? Watch the video instead!

What's this Movie About?

Starting with the Sammo Hung original, his version tells the story of Lung, the son of a pig farmer from the countryside who moves to the city to help his Uncle at his noodle stall. A big Bruce Lee fan, wherever Lung goes, trouble doesn’t seem to far behind, although usually by accident.

He has a big heart along with his big belly, and will always help out someone in need. From running down a couple of purse thieves to beating up thugs who refuse to pay for meal, he is always on the side of good.

When his uncles store is trashed by thugs, he gets a job washing dishes in a bakery. His colleague from his uncle’s store is a talented artist, who is being hunted by a gang of forgers to create imitation paintings to be sold to rich businessmen. When this gang hosts a party for a rich antique collector, Lung and his new colleagues at the bakery are forced to work as servers, where Lung gets into a fight trying to stop the sexual harassment of a woman who reminds the antique collector of his first girlfriend.

When she is kidnapped, its up to Lung to save the day. Using his martial art skills, he faces off against 3 foreigners, in a nice reference to Enter the Dragon, when he realises that while he has a big heart and loves helping people in need, the big city is just not a place for him.

In Donnie Yen’s version of Enter The Fat Dragon, he plays a police man called Zhu Fu Long – with what I assume “Zhu” being a reference to Sammo’s character from his version – Zhu being the same sounding word as “pig” in Chinese but with a different tonal use.

Fu Long is dating an actress, Chloe. She’s not a very good actress but wants to marry him and on the day they plan to get their wedding photos taken, Fu Long is caught up in a bank robbery where he ends up catching the ringleader, but destroys the entrance to a police station which just so happens to be where the Police Commissioner is in attendance.

Fu Long is demoted to the evidence room and Chloe leaves him. Depressed, he turns to comfort eating and gains almost 50kgs, ballooning out to 113kgs. Desperate to get back into proper police work, his old captain has a task for him that he can’t possibly screw up: he just needs to escort a criminal back to Japan.

On the plane he bumps into Chloe, who is on her way to Japan to entertain a Yakuza chairman. When he gets to Japan, he meets up with his contacts but the suspect manages to escape.

Fu Long meets up with a contact in Tokyo, Thor played by veteran Hong Kong actor and director Jing Wong, and uncovers a police cover-up of Yakuza activity. Fu Long, being the good guy that he is, gets involved in trying to bring the yakuza to justice. With Chloe’s life is in danger, Fu Long comes to the rescue in some impressive action sequences with the hopes of both rekindling his romance with Chloe, and getting a promotion back in the Hong Kong police force.

Is it Worth Watching?

Is it worth watching both movies? Of course it is. And while these movies are not co-dependant on each other, they are both worth watching for their individual reasons.

Firstly, who doesn’t love Sammo Hung, who has an impressive 190+ acting credits to his name. This 1978 film has been remastered into HD, so if you are going to watch it, head over to Amazon to buy an original disc.

This movie is classic Hong Kong cinema. It’s genuinely funny without resorting to slapstick, and the action is well choreographed without the need of wirework that infiltrated Hong Kong cinema in the 80s. It’s not overacted and the story is easy to follow and makes sense, and of course not only was Sammo in the starring role, but he also did the action scenes and directed the film, so you know it’s a proper labour of love project from an actor who cared.

The same, though, can’t be said about the 2020 Donnie Yen version. This feels like nothing more than a cash grab to take advantage of the Donnie Yen name, especially when you consider it was completed in 2018 and took over a year before it was released, timed to coincide with the end of Ip Man 4 cinema run.

In its defence, there are some legitimately funny moments, and the action sequences are exciting, there is just an overuse of wirework. The humour is passable for most of the film, but the ineptitude of the Japanese police and the rather unfunny way they are portrayed as corrupt and useless stops being funny very quickly.

There is not much here that compares similarly to the Sammo Hung original other than they are both overweight kung fu artists who love helping out the people in need, and that they both tend to destroy any environment they fight in. They also share the same theme music, although the 2020 version does over play it.

undefined

What are Some of the Memorable Moments?

Certainly, in the original there are lots of memorable moments – and some real standout highlights.

First up, Sammo Hung is genuinely agile and its great to watch his kung fu scenes. Most of the fight scenes are exciting to watch: from the “debt collection” in his uncle food stall against the gangsters who don’t want to pay, to the party scene where Lung accidentally gets drunk drinking too much wine and has to fight against a big group of henchmen.

On top of the impressive final fight where Lung takes on the 3 foreigners with their different fighting styles, there is a humourous and very much ‘in-character’ fight where Lung schools a Bruce Lee impersonator on how to fight like the great man.

All of this is delivered with the irresistible baby face of our lead actor that makes his character such a lovable hero in this film.

And Donnie Yen also delivers a similar performance. For a man who was about 55 when his version was filmed, he still manages to retain the baby face, loveable and non-threatening look of Sammo’s character.

The 2020 version also features impressive and exciting action scenes with great kung fu fights and some exciting stunts that couldn’t have been done back in 1978, so its great to see an evolution of the action.

Fu Long’s “good guy” persona enables some great scenes to be created and played up to the camera. The scene of the bank robbery, where he devises a plan in his head, works well because the reality of when he tries to replicate the scene is quite different than he imagines.

The 2020 version of the drunk fight plays out a little different, where as instead of Fu Long being drunk and fighting the gangsters, we get Thor accidentally getting high on drugs via a tainted fish and assisting Fu Long in his fight with the Yakuza using a forklift. It’s quite funny and showcases some exciting stunt work, although its not anything you haven’t seen before.

What's Not So Hot?

Sammo Hung’s version is a product of its time, and it should be viewed as such. There are certainly scenes in this film, as mild as they are, that would struggle to be justified in this current age, even in Hong Kong.

The opening scene features some mild animal abuse that perhaps fits in context with the opening dialogue, but in this day and age doesn’t need to be in the film. Interestingly, this is addressed in Donnie Yen’s version where he refuses to attack the German Shephard who is intent on biting himself and Lung in the JAV director’s apartment.

Additionally, a few scenes of sexism and racism, as mild as they are, may also cause some discomfort in modern audiences, although this could be addressed with the adjustment of the subtitles.

Otherwise there’s not much to find fault with this version. It’s not perfect, but it knows its limits and plays remarkably within them.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Donnie Yen’s version, and it’s a real shame to say this. There are going to be a lot of people out there who will desperately want to love this movie, I was one of them, but the movie just makes it so hard at times.

In indoor set of Kabukicho in Shinjuku Tokyo feels very much out of place. As with Master Z Ip Man Legacy, its clearly obvious it’s a set, designed to make the wire-work stunts easier to perform, as well as being a lot easier to shoot than on location in the real Kabukicho.

And speaking of wire-work, this is another film where is it very much overused. I know we won’t get the exciting stunt work we expect from a Donnie Yen film without it, but it’s just a real shame that not only is it overused, but its rather obvious and detracts from the overall pacing and excitement of the action scenes.

It also suffers from over acting, turning what should a have been a casually funny Hong Kong action comedy film into something akin to a Korean comedy drama, where the pacing can go from serious to melodrama in the blink of an eye. I’m going to chalk this up to the director just not being comfortable in knowing what to do with this great cast in front of him. Kenji Tanigaki, the director, is not inexperienced when it comes to filmmaking. His credits as a stunt producer or action director are impressive and include classics like SPL, Special ID and The Monkey King, with Donnie Yen, the Rurouni Kenshin franchise and more. He is a 25+ year veteran of both Japanese and Hong Kong cinema and he knows how to craft great action scenes, as evident in his version of Enter The Fat Dragon. He is also collaborating with Donnie Yen again on the upcoming Raging Fire movie as the action choreographer, but it seems his immense talents just don’t translate well to directing a whole film.

Overall Impressions

As you can see, these are really two different movie who just happen to share the same name and a few basic similarities. Watching the Sammo Hung original is not important in understanding or enjoying the Donnie Yen version, but it can help in knowing where the inspiration has come from.

If I had to pick between the two of them to watch again, then I think it’s pretty obvious I’d take the 1978 Sammo Hung classic any day. That’s not to say that Donnie Yen’s version is without merit, and certainly to the younger audiences who only know the flashy exciting modern action movies, they won’t view the 1978 classic in the same way as more older audiences who have grown up on Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung films from the 70s and 80s.

Perhaps if Sammo was giving a consultant role in the 2020 version, it might have turned out different, but at this stage, if you can only watch one – go with the original. You won’t be disappointed.

If you’ve seen it, what did you think?