Weedy office worker Cheung is sent to a remote village to secure property rights for his real estate company. Two martial artists run the village's teahouse, which was once the kung-fu ...
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Blackie Shou Liang Ko
Three people - a criminal, a bank officer and a cop - end up in a catastrophic situation in the midst of a global economical crisis and are forced to betray any morals and principles to solve their financial problems.
Weedy office worker Cheung is sent to a remote village to secure property rights for his real estate company. Two martial artists run the village's teahouse, which was once the kung-fu school of their teacher Master Law. Law is in fact lying unconscious upstairs in a three decades-long coma, but he awakes when gym boss and local landlord Pong attempts to secure the teahouse for redevelopment. Law mistakes Cheung for a former student and starts training him in preparation for a martial-arts tournament at Pong's gym that will decide all their fates. Written by
Produced under Andy Lau's Focus Films with actor Lau Kar Tung on board
as producer, directors Clement Cheng and Derek Kwok have a winner on
their hands, as they exalt the spirit of what it means to never give up
when the odds are stacked against you, and in some way live up that
spirit of theirs when they had embarked to make this project which had
clear risks. It will be extremely foolish to dismiss the film outright
just because it has more elderly actors than youthful ones to draw the
crowd, because as the adage goes, the oldest ginger is still the best,
and this film is a testament to that. Look closely and you'll see the
sheer amount of veteran, legendary talent even, assembled who hail from
the Shaw Brothers kung fu film era, with even the opening credits with
the silhouette fights, and the way characters are introduced, paying
certain homage to an era bygone.
In essence, this purely Hong Kong film is an allegory of sorts to its
peers in the market, where packaging and marketing are seen to be the
be-all-and-end-all, rather than to rely on hard work to hone talent, or
to compensate for the lack thereof. It tells of a people's indomitable
spirit of not backing down, and to keep one's chin up in the face of
tremendous competition, to work at what they are good at, and all will
likely and hopefully be well.
As the story goes, we follow the adventures of Cheung (Wong You Nam), a
lifelong loser who gets bullied from the get go in his life, and gets
sent by his real estate company to a remote town to assist in acquiring
leases from the townsfolk so that redevelopment works can start.
Naturally he gets bullied, and gets rescued by the mysterious Tiger
(Leung Siu-Lung), a disciple of the once great Master Ben Law (Teddy
Robin) of the Gate of Law martial arts school, who has been in coma for
the last 30 years. And it seems, like in Stephen Chow's Kung Fu, this
small town hides a lot more martial arts exponents, such as Law's other
disciple Dragon (Chen Kuan-Tai), who together with Tiger had tried
their best to keep their Master's place alive by converting it to a
Teahouse, while awaiting Ben's recovery.
Then there's Kwai (JJ Jia), the pretty lass who also hangs out at the
Law's teahouse. Their collective backstory is something that got
delivered through a fantastic animated sequence, and animation is
something that gets peppered throughout the film as well when it gets
down to fight sequences when deadly bone crunching blows get delivered.
Since the film has in its plot the advent of the Hong Kong Martial Arts
Open to seemingly promote the spirit of martial arts, as announced by
rival and owner of a flashier sports club Master Pong (Chan Mai Wan),
one will expect some spectacular kung fu action. The film more than
delivers in this aspect, with the action choreographed by the renowned
Yuen Tak, who cleverly did away with fancy wire-work, offering instead
sparring sessions which are realistic and extremely riveting to watch,
as the actors (most of whom have so many years of experience) put
together some credible and exciting martial arts moves for the screen.
Editing is also wonderfully done so that we get the best views at the
front seats of a bout without the usual MTV-styled quick editing
nonsense. I guarantee no matter how many martial arts films that you've
seen, the ones here as choreographed will still blow your mind away.
Like a Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon itself, if you do not buy the
first act, then wait for Teddy Robin, who single-handedly stole the
show right out from everyone's noses. His comic timing is perfect, and
the lines that he has, sheer wit, coupled with the fact that his
character's disorientation after being out of action for so many years,
is something that offers rip-roaring laughter. The directors, who
co-wrote the story with Frankie Tam, breathe so much life into Master
Law, that you can't help but on one hand be amazed by his crazy
philosophy, and on the other just laugh at it, such as his proclaimed
laws of combat in the order of Guts, Power and Skill, the rationale in
his disciple recruitment strategy, and chiefly, that the reason to
learn Kung Fu is to fight, not exercise which has other, better
alternatives. Robin, who also contributed to the movie's music, fills
his character with so much youthful energy and exuberance, makes this
one of his more memorable roles that he has tackled, and left everyone
in the cinema crackling with glee each time he turns on his wit.
As the film explains early on, the boxing ring is a symbol of dignity
and fame, and there can be only one victor and one loser. Clearly,
Gallants is a winner in my books, and delivers knockout blow after
knockout blow without relent. I had come with a mission to watch Hong
Kong films, and this one clearly made my trip worthwhile many times
over, coupled with so many hilarious moments to laugh along with. I
hope it makes it to Singapore so that I can watch this on the big
screen again, otherwise I'll patiently wait for its DVD release after
it's done its theatrical and festival rounds. Highly recommended,
without a doubt one of the best amongst the festival offerings if I may
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