in 2001, action director Sam Wong Ming-Sing shepherded a young
group of lower-class dancers into the semi-big leagues. Thanks
to great effort and timely sponsorship, the troupe was able to
display their hip-hop street dance stylings as back-up dancers
in Andy Lau's summer concert. How do we know this? They made a
movie on the subject.
Andy Hui stars in Give Them a
Chance as Sam, a movie action director working in Hong Kong's
fizzling motion picture industry. Though he always wanted to be
a dancer, he ended up in film, where he earns a small buck arranging
stunts and kung-fu action. Through some small happenstance, Sam
finds himself involved with a group of young street dancers, who
practice their hip-hop stylings outside the Hong Kong Cultural
Center. Sam feels an affinity for the kids, because their nighttime
hobby echoes his former childhood dreams.
Sam also has a brother, Jack (Osman Hung
of band EO2), who teaches dance to disaffected youngsters in an
afterschool club. However, Jack gets canned when he's seen street
dancing at the cultural center with his students. Sam and Jack
have been somewhat on the outs since Jack broke his leg while
stunt-doubling on one of Sam's productions, but the brothers'
renewed interest in danceand the desire shown by the youngsterslead
them to found a non-profit dance club that keeps the kids off
Eventually, the group gets a shot at
the big time when they are selected to perform at a dance exhibition
inside the Cultural Center. However, jealous yuppie types
scheme to marginalize our lower-income heroes, meaning the kids
may be denied their chance to impress family, friends, and maybe
the rare star in the audience. Can they summon enough heart and
teamwork to perform their four-and-a-half minute shot at stardom?
And hey, isn't that Andy Lau in the audience?
Whether or not these kids succeed
is not the point here. The film was based on real-life events,
and it's unlikely the film would have even been produced had evil
yuppie types squashed the youngsters' dreams. Nope, this is your
standard inspirational story about how determination and perseverance
can overcome the proverbial hand you're dealt. That the whole
thing is based on real life makes the film particularly endearing.
It's hard not to root for a bunch of lower-class kids who simply
want to give their dreams a shot. Not only were these kids kept
off the street, but they turned their love of dance into a new
life for themselves. Film producers anywhere would have taken
note of that.
However, the problem does exist:
this is a Hong Kong Film. Hong Kong Cinema is renowned for wacky
post-modern comedy or over-the-top action, but earnest, inspirational
drama has never been its strong suit. Director Herman Yau seems
to handle the drama decently, and though the dancing isn't that
inspirational (the emotional energy of dance is better served
live than on replay), he treats his characters and the subject
with appropriate dignity. The kids' desire to dance seems genuine
and not forced, and the chicanery of the educational system and
the aforementioned evil yuppie types aren't rendered as complete
caricature. Yau keeps the situations and his camera at a fairly
realistic level, and the kids and their lives do feel somewhat
It's a shame then that the film
is written in such broad melodramatic strokes. The trials of the
kids feature some hackneyed conflicts. Two brothers, one with
kidney disease and one a mute, struggle with their broken family.
They have a lifelong friend, who functions as girlfriend to one,
and protector to another. However, she starts to fall for another
dancer, whose older brother (Peng Wai-On, also of EO2) doesn't
want his sibling to go down the wrong path. Add that to the other
brother-brother conflict (Jack and Sam) and you have one helluva
family mess. The Chinese title for Give Them a Chance translates
as Three Pairs of Brothers. At least there's honesty in
the title, but the convoluted interpersonal drama seems a tad
too heavy for the film.
Adding to this is the acting, which
ranges from effective (Andy Hui and Peng Wai-On) to wooden (Osman
Hung is as charismatic as a brick) to just plain grating (the
kids are stiff or overact on occasion). There are some standouts,
but by and large the acting is nondescript and even uninvolving.
Most of the neophyte actors project poorly, which makes the hackneyed
dialogue and conflicts even more glaringly obvious. The presumption
is that the story is true, and the facts massaged to fit a more
dramatic storyline. If so, then yay. If not, and the interpersonal
issues were all added "drama", then they should have
pared down the excess. At the very least, the "afterschool
special" aspect of the kids' lives should have been toned
down. There's a certain point where drama stops being drama, and
becomes textbook clichés.
But hey, if this all really happened,
then good job! They fit it all into a ninety-eight minute movie,
and even managed to corrall many a big name to make token appearances.
Andy Lau gets the big credit for appearing as Andy Lau, the eventual
benefactor for the gang of kids. He also helped produce the film
(his company Teamwork gets a credit), and even supplied footage
from his own concert to support the claim that he gave them jobs.
Some could read all of this as a self-congratulatory move for
Lau, but credit should be given: he really did give these kids
a chance. Giving the movie a chance wouldn't be a terrible move
either. Sure, it's not much more than average filmmaking, but
its admirable intentions and glimpse of urban Hong Kong life make
it a minor, but still worthy effort. (Kozo 2003)