HONG KONG 2010 Directed by: Derek Kwok Chin-Kin, Clement Sze-Kit Cheng Written by: Frankie Tam, Kwok Chi-Kin, Clement Sze-Kit Cheng Produced by: Lam Ka Tung Cinematography: Sing-Pui O Editing: Matthew Hui Music: Teddy Robin Kwan, Tommy Wai Cast: Leung Siu-Lung, Chen Kuan Tai, Wong You-Nam, Chen Koon Tai, J.J. Jia, Teddy Robin Kwan, Jin Auyeung, Li Haitao, Siu Yam Yam, Lo Meng, Ku Kuan-Chung
Kung-fu master Law Sun is in a coma since 30 years. In the meantime, his martial arts school had to close down and is now run by his ex-disciples as Law’s Teahouse. Outdated, without customers and broke shopkeepers Dragon and Tiger, both in their fifties now, are thinking to finally give up the place when a young property company manager, Cheung, shows up. Clueless at work and aimless in life Cheung used to be a kung-fu enthusiast, but had to give up his passion at an early age due to asthma. Cheung gets involved in a property dispute about the teahouse and learns about the rich heritage of the place and its old inhabitants – just before he accidentally wakes up master Law. Once Law is back on his feet, he reopens his school – not knowing that 30 years have passed. Having lost a substantial part of his memory he shifts into high gear, training Dragon, Tiger and Cheung to take part in a tournament and fight with their arch rivals to get their dignity back.
GALLANTS is a lovely homage to the art of kung-fu and kung-fu cinema alike. It displays a fine sense of humor that has little to do with your average Cantonese comedy: instead of making fun of the subject or exploiting it for cheap punch lines GALLANTS always respects its (anti-)heroes and loves them for their character as much as for their flaws and failures. Seen largely through the eyes of Cheung GALLANTS has a touch of coming-of-age story that makes for an interesting contrast to the ageing martial arts masters: young and old are learning from each other and have respect for each other, typifying one of the virtues of Asian cultures, but it also wouldn’t be a topic of this movie (and many others for that matter) if we all wouldn’t feel its appreciation is gradually fading in the East as well.
The movie’s offbeat style and indie-feeling is a welcome change to what else is out there at the moment; all things considered GALLANTS is a league apart from proclaimed masterpieces of satire like ONCE A GANGSTER. However, in the wake of GALLANTS being hyped as one of Hong Kong’s best movies of the year it still takes quite some imagination to see what exactly would constitute the movie being a real milestone of cinematic creativity. It is honest and authentic, warm and heartfelt, funny and yet seriously in love with kung-fu, however, I’d overrate the movie if I’d praise it as something that it isn’t.
GALLANTS is a formidable small film, and looking at this year’s output from HK most certainly one of this year’s sleeper hits, especially thanks to its non-commercial approach to filmmaking, but it is also a movie that’s contained within its subject-matter, mostly playing inside the box. GALLANTS is a film about the heyday and downtime of kung-fu, but it doesn’t reach out to an audience that isn’t much concerned with the physical or spiritual side of martial arts.
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