Every week, I scour Netflix for a movie rated at one star and put it in my queue, suffering through it for your entertainment so that you don’t have to. In the past, I’ve taken on anime cancer demons, softcore Iraq War porn and racist ventriloquism, and this week, it’s the first Worst of Netflix where getting my head kicked in by the stars is a legitimate concern.
Four Dragons (2008)
Starring: All the poorly animated digital blood that was taken out of the Super NES version of Mortal Kombat.
Let’s get one thing straight here: I love kung fu movies so much that I’m pretty sure I’m in the line of succession for the Wu Tang Clan, somewhere between Redman and the guy who runs the RZA’s second-favorite taco stand. I just love watching dudes get kicked in the face, and while they’re unique even among the broader genre of Action Films in that it’s perfectly acceptable for things like “plot” and “acting” to be put aside to deliver exactly that. It’s just the way the genre works, and like pretty much every head-kick enthusiast, I’ve embraced it and come to understand that all it really takes to make one is a camera, a free weekend, and a guy who can punch through concrete. So what could it possibly take for martial arts movie to get ranked at a single star?
One day, I’m going to learn to stop asking these questions.
From the start, Four Dragons seems like it’s got a lot going for it. All five of its stars (four protagonists and a villain) are all martial arts champions, and while they’re not that great at acting, that’s hardly a requirement for success here. I mean, as an actor, Tony Jaa is damn near unwatchable, but as a dude who kicks people after setting his own legs on fire, he provides top-notch entertainment. Also, it’s worth noting that while something about the cinematography reminds me a lot of the movies about King David that they show on the Bible channel, this movie actually has a budget and most of the time, it’s pretty well shot.
Unfortunately, the parts that aren’t shot well are the fighting. Apparently director C.L. Hor thought viewers would get a little bit more out of an unintelligible series of jump cuts that somehow manage to miss almost all the action, with the remainder run through the ol’ Post-Matrix random speed filter.
That all takes a back seat to the film’s trademark, though. Whenever someone gets hit…
…they explode into massive blood-sprays that I am reasonably certain were generated by a Sega CD. Seriously, I never thought I’d see animated blood geysers that were less convincing than Evil Dead 2, but at long last, Sam Raimi, you may lay down your burden.
That’s all established in the opening fight scene, though, and it’s after that that things really start to go off the rails. Now I’m no Run Run Shaw, but I’m pretty sure that when you’ve assembled a cast of martial arts champions, you may want to have them on camera, you know, fighting. This is not what happens in Four Dragons.