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June 2010

Night Dragon

cast: Imogen Church, Annette Kellow, Scott Thomas, James Fisher, and Alan Ford

director: Tim Biddiscombe

74 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
TLA DVD Region 2 retail
[released 28 June]

RATING: 5/10
review by Ian Sales

Night Dragon

Following the success of Guy Ritchie's 1998 film, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, it feels like every British film since has been a clichéd 'mockney' gangster movie. And most of them have not been very good. Tim Biddiscombe's Night Dragon tries to do something a little different but, sadly, doesn't pull it off.

Liz (Imogen Church) works for gangster Hansen (Alan Ford), who was after the 'Pink Lady', an enormous pink sapphire. Liz attempted to seduce the man who knew the gem's location, but it all went horribly wrong. The man was just about to kill Liz, when Hansen appeared and shot him instead. But now the murder case is due in court and there's a witness who could see Hansen put away for a very long time.

So Liz has to seduce Millie (Annette Kellow), the lawyer preparing the brief, and inveigle out of her the address of the safe house where the witness has been stashed. Unfortunately, the approach is taking too long. So Hansen sends in his pair of killers, the psychopathic Christian (Scott Thomas) and the enigmatic Becker (James Fisher). They break into Millie's apartment, tie her up and torture her, but she won't tell. So they inject her with 'night dragon', an especially addictive narcotic. At which point, Liz turns up, and the three start bickering and arguing - because Liz has fallen in love with Millie and doesn't want to see her hurt.

And it's only in summaries of the plot that the film's events will appear in chronological order. Because Biddiscombe might well have been inspired by Ritchie, but Night Dragon also owes a debt to Christopher Nolan. However, Biddiscombe's film is no Following or Memento, and cutting up the story's timeline actually seems to achieve little in narrative terms.

It only works if it's necessary to hold back information - learned earlier by the characters - from the viewer. This isn't the case in Night Dragon. We have to piece the story together from the flashbacks, and even then there are no revelations that come as much of a surprise. For example, Liz's connection with Hansen is given right at the start of the film, so her seduction of Millie can never be taken seriously.

Despite the film's low budget, the production values are generally quite good. The cast play their parts well, although Fisher is a bit stiff and Thomas' psychopathic giggle sounds forced. Both Church and Kellow are good. The dialogue is generally fine - Thomas gets the best lines, although Fisher more often sounds pompous rather than enigmatic. But since those two are the most distinct 'characters' in the film, it's hardly surprising they seem less successful in comparison to the rest of the cast.

On occasion, Biddiscombe's consciously art-house camerawork obscures what is happening in a scene, but not often enough to spoil the film. Night Dragon deserves some credit for ambition. It aims high. It's a shame it doesn't quite make it.



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