Review: GALLANTS 打擂台 (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Review: GALLANTS 打擂台 (2010)

Review: GALLANTS 打擂台 (2010)

GALLANTS begins with a bespectacled loser named Cheung (Wong Yau-Nam) who's been a constant subject of bully working at a real-estate company. Nobody seems to respect him at all and renders him as a useless being good for nothing. Which is why his boss decides to send him in a thankless task where he is required to go to a small village and secure a remote rural property for redevelopment. The particular property happens to be a rundown teahouse manned by ex-martial artists Dragon (Chen Kuan-Tai) and Tiger (Leung Siu-Lung), two faithful students to their comatose master, Master Law (Teddy Robin Kwan). Apparently for the last thirty years, Dragon and Tiger haven't been giving up hope to await his master to wake up from his coma following from a legendary duel gone awry. Once upon a time, the teahouse is used to be Master Law's famous martial art school nicknamed the "Gate of Law". The problem arises once Cheung has unexpectedly causing trouble in the small village, and getting himself involved with a scheming bad guy named Mang (MC Jin). Coincidentally, Mang happens to be a neighbouring kid Cheung used to beat him up and naturally Mang sees this as his opportunity to use him at all cost. Then there's a local martial-arts competition, organised by Master Pong (Chan Wai-Man) who is actually looking forward to conquering the Gate of Law. Dragon and Tiger refuse to take up the challenge, while Cheung himself has been desperately wanted to learn a couple of martial-art techniques so he can help them defending the teahouse. All that change when Master Law finally awake from the coma, but it's not without a series of complications ensues -- he happens to lose his mind and mistaken Cheung as both Dragon and Tiger.

REVIEW: Consider this scenario: Derek Kwok and Clement Cheng's GALLANTS is a low-budget Hong Kong genre mishmash that mixes with kung fu comedy, character-driven drama, old-school martial arts tale, and uplifting story about underdogs. But wait, the movie doesn't have a huge selling point in the form of a recognizable action star (e.g. Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan or Wu Jing) except for a cast largely consisting of 60-plus Shaw Brothers veterans (Chen Kuan-Tai, Leung Siu-Lung, Lo Meng) and a disposable young cast starring Wong Yau-Nam and JJ Jia. Such movie is going to be a tough sell for today's demanding market (young generation, in particular) these days. However, GALLANTS proves to be a surprisingly entertaining movie in its own right.

What makes this little movie entertaining enough to watch for is the quirky way Derek Kwok and Clement Cheng paying homage to the 1970s Shaw Brothers kung fu genre (complete with freeze frames and extreme zooms) and blending them mostly in a good old-fashioned nonsensical comedy of a bygone era the Hong Kong cinema used to be well-known for. The movie is also benefited from a cast of kungfu veterans -- with Chen Kuan-Tai, Leung Siu-Leung and Lo Meng -- deliver surprisingly nuanced and spirited performances deserved a standing ovation. Despite their retirement age, they still pack a few wallops when comes to showcasing their graceful martial-arts move they used to be so great during their Shaw Brothers era. It's definitely hard to expect some 60-something veterans still can fight like today's action superstar, and the action sequences are exceptionally top-notch. Then there's the long-forgotten Teddy Robin Kwan, who made a memorable comeback to the Hong Kong cinema. Not only he's a scene-stealer here, he is simply hilarious as the absent-minded master who knows well about terrific comic timing. As for the younger stars, both Wong Yau-Nam, MC Jin and JJ Jia (who plays as a pretty martial-art girl frequently hang out in the teahouse) manage to shine in their respectively playful roles with equal flairs. Though the plot doesn't quite live up to its sustainable momentum, this is as good as it gets, especially for a movie with such low-budget calibre. The ending is particularly something of a different approach, something that is out of a norm you commonly expect in this kind of kung fu genre movie. Make no mistake, it's not that there isn't any fight involved except that it ends up in a symbolic nature where "winning isn't everything".

Produced by Andy Lau's Focus Films with actor Gordon Lam Ka-Tung serving as the producer, the story behind the making of GALLANTS has certainly reflected the underdog nature of the movie alone. Believe it or not, the movie took about ten years just to get financing alone. But all the hard effort definitely pays off handsomely with a movie that will become the talk-of-the-moment. It's not a perfect classic by any means, but GALLANTS deserved its spot as one of the best movies of the year.

A quirky yet entertaining homage to the 1970s Shaw Brothers kung fu genre, GALLANTS also benefits from a solid cast and top-notch martial art choreography.

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