City Dragon (1995)

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Before Black Dynamite and Undercover Brother, there was the City Dragon, in this shot-on-video action-comedy that all of a sudden takes a turn into something one would see on Lifetime.

Ray is the City Dragon, a martial artist who loves to hang with the guys and hook up with the ladies through his constant rapping. Along with his buddies, Philthy and Rick, Ray either is hanging at the nightclubs or getting into fights, where he unleashes his martial arts skills. However, his life soon changes when he meets a young woman named Tina, whom he is instantly attracted to and begins a relationship with.

Having been finished with his lothario ways, Ray learns that Tina is pregnant and offers to marry her. The two soon marry and Ray finds a serious job, only having to use his martial arts skills when necessary. However, two things begin to slowly unravel for Ray. The first involves his supervisor forcing Ray to have an affair with her to keep his job. The second is a whole lot worse as Tina’s abusive and obsessive ex-boyfriend John wants to kill Ray for stealing Tina from him, even though Tina ended things with him due to his abuse.

From the credits of the film, one can’t help but not take this film seriously. When you have a star credited as “MC Kung Fu” and the director named “Philthy” Phil, that should put up red flags all around. Surprisingly, this looks to be the intention at first as we see our hero Ray rapping his way to the ladies’ beds or using his kung fu skills against random thugs. Somewhere in the middle, things go from perhaps intentional kung fu spoof to a serious tone reminiscent of a Lifetime movie when an abusive ex and an obvious case for sexual harassment is involved. It just seemed like the film could have been better using only one tone instead of trying to jump from one to another with the snap of a finger.

The real MC Kung Fu is Stan Derain, who is a virtual jack of all trades with his film debut. He not only starred in the film, but he served as a producer, co-wrote, and choreographed the fight scenes. He has the look and seems to have the potential of being a good on-screen fighter. The rapping in the first half of the film truly defined his character and it is when he gets more serious in the second half that it just seems all downhill. Had he kept up the rapping and kept it as a homage of the Blaxploitation kung fu films of yore as it seemed to have intended to be, then it could have been a fun film to watch. The seriousness of the second half kind of takes away the point of the film as a whole.

Director and co-writer “Philthy” Phil Phillips and John Williams (not the music legend behind some of Hollywood’s best scores) provide extra comic relief as Ray’s buddies who wishes Ray kept going with his hard-partying ways while Kathy Barbour mixes “damsel in distress” and “desperate for attention” in her role as female lead Tina. John Haran’s abusive ex John works well either way, showing why he is a true scumbag.

Derain and Vito Falco choreographed the action scenes and while some are pretty much one hit and then over, there are two fights that stand out that boost the rating slightly. Interestingly enough, they both involve Ray and John. In their first encounter, Ray takes on John and some thugs and one thug stands out as giving Ray a run for his money (one can guess this was Vito Falco himself due to that credit) and the climactic fight between Ray and John, in which they use the environment to their advantage yet again it is a hit and run style of action.

City Dragon is a film that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be: a satire of Blaxploitation kung fu film or Lifetime movie of Week. It doesn’t just seem to mesh well and unless you can pick this up for a buck or less, then you’re better off watching something else.

WFG RATING: C-

A Peacock Films production in association with Smooth Sailing productions and Lisa-Film GmbH. Director: “Philthy” Phil Phillips. Producers: Stan Derain and “Philthy” Phil Phillips. Writers: Stan Derain and “Philthy” Phil Phillips. Cinematography: Cynthia Webster. Editing: Scott Ellifritt.

Cast: Stan Derain, Kathy Barbour, John Haran, “Philthy” Phil Phillips, John Williams, Fawn Reed, Millicent Ally, Earl Monroe, Demetria LeBlanc, Sherri Lea, J. Bernard Klighten.

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