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Lao san is a highly motivated navy man. In saving a friend from drowning he suffers hypoxia. The lack of oxygen causes permanent brain damage and he is no longer able to function to a normal level of intelligence. After being discharged from the navy he remains caught obsessively in the training he received. With only a young deaf boy for a friend he moves around the city fighting crime and trying to teach petty thieves the simple lessons of right and wrong using his martial arts background. Written by
Ye Liu is excellent in the role of Lao San as a (somewhat) mentally-disabled former soldier who dispatches petty criminals with glee. His best friend is a child who idolises him and who helps him on his vigilante escapades, and his girlfriend only sticks around because of the memory of who he was before suffering from brain damage when he had an accident while he was a soldier.
In a way the main focus of the film is Lao San's questioning of who he is, and whether his future lies in being a vigilante. Both his mother and his girlfriend want him to put down his weapons and stop fighting, but the training he received in the military and by which he tries to live as a civilian tells him otherwise. What is he to do when he doesn't have the ability to think things through properly?
In order to resolve his dilemma, Lao San needs an external actor who comes in the form of triad leader Anthony Wong. The crossing of their paths leads to a climax where Lao San is forced to re-evaluate how he lives his life. Will he choose to be a vigilante hero or will he become a normal man for the sake of his true love?
On the whole I found this film interesting because the central character is really quite unique. Furthermore, the film isn't about his brain damage in the way Rain Man is about autism. The plot moves independently of whether Lao San suffers from brain damage or not, and we are not expected to treat him as a figure to be pitied. He is who he is, with whatever that entails. He struggles with his sense of loyalty to his military principles and his desire to become the more normal boyfriend his girlfriend yearns for. He beats up the petty criminals but stops hitting them on the condition that they'll take the kid in their gang to school. Both tender and tough, mentally handicapped, unsure with how to deal with the outside world, Lao San is one of the most interesting characters I've seen in a long time.
The rest of the movie is pretty average. Sometimes the story doesn't quite make sense, characters appear were you least expect them, they act in a way that goes against character, they say some corny lines, and all those other things Chinese action movies do so well.
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