One of the great mysteries in martial arts film is why Billy Chong did not become a superstar of the genre, a question that will certainly perplex any of you who haven't heard of him and decide to check out SUN DRAGON (US title A HARD WAY TO DIE). Filmed in Arizona around 1980 by Eternal Films, SUN DRAGON is simply put a minor classic of the kung fu genre. While it suffers from all the short comings of the typical chop socky flick of that time, it rises above most of the genre by virtue of its two stars, Billy Chong and the nearly as impressive Carl Scott who was literally just a teenager at the time.
Chong combines the best of all worlds: the burning intensity of a Bruce Lee, the goofy agility of a Jackie Chan, and the boyish charm of an Alexander Fu Sheng with his own little Indonesian self to produce an exciting new original that started out with a brilliant flash and then apparently just went back to Indonesia where he had been among other things, a pop star. What a loss! Such fighting skills, such screen presence, such a looker! But back to SUN DRAGON, for there is also Carl Scott!
Scott too fell off the face of the cinematic earth after a couple of movies, and I dare you to see THIS ONE and give me one good reason why! His martial arts here are nearly flawless and his bo kata is a real eye opener, he's as good as anyone I've ever seen on this side of the international dateline, and he certainly had no competition from the likes of Jim Kelly or Ron Van Clief.
You say you want to know more about the movie? Well, in many ways it's your typical kung fu flick; high spirited boy(Chong) gets in trouble fighting (in this case he rescues a hapless girl from a gang of would-be rapists led by the local magistrate's son) and has to be sent away for his own good. The difference is that in this case he's sent to the United States, or more specifically, Arizona, to stay with his Grandfather who we never do get to meet in the course of the movie. Instead he gets side-tracked breaking up fights that are bring staged for money at the local Chinese run tavern, and bouncing all the troublemakers out on their keisters.
At the same time we have a second storyline going about a black youth named Tom who barely escape with his life when a group of evil-doers decides that his family's little ranch would be the perfect place to hide out while things cool off from their last job. They kill Tom's parents which naturally means he's going to have to get revenge. Our hero Billy Chong and his newly found friend at the tavern take Tom to the local kung fu master/herbalist who heals Tom's body and as at no additional cost turns him into a lethal killing machine for purposes of extracting revenge.
Oh, there's more, MUCH, MUCH MORE. I haven't even told you about the samurais yet! But I have to leave SOME surprises for you, don't I? In the final analysis there's only one reason you go to martial arts films and that's to see terrific action performed by guys who know how to do it right. So while styles have changed in the way fights are presented, in SUN DRAGON you'll still be able to spot the brilliance of the two stars who should have been more--Billy Chong and Carl Scott! And have lots of old school fun along the way.