Stephen Fung is Edward, a rich high school kid who accidentally
gets enrolled in seedy TBS College instead of the prestigious
private school he was supposed to get into. TBS College is
apparently the Battle Royale college of Hong Kong.
The ritual here is for kids to settle their differences through
one-on-one fisticuffs without any teachers present. The teachers
actually know but don't get involved, which is yet another
fine argument for public education.
Edward immediately gets
saddled with smarmy rivals, but he does find an ally: Stone
(Nicholas Tse), the undisputed King of Fighters. However,
Stone hasn't fought in six months and current top dog Mantis
(Samuel Pang) wants Stone in the ring so they can see who's
the toughest of all. Stone doesn't care to fight Mantis, but
he will help Edward learn the ropes so he can fend for himself
in the ring. However, Stone has his own issues, and Mantis
isn't content to let Stone avoid fighting him. Plus there's
a kidnapping case and the obligatory high school romance between
Edward and classmate Fung (Joey Yung).
Wong Jing wrote and co-directed this
promising action picture that devolves beneath the usual Wong
Jing bag of tricks. The action sequences are very well done,
featuring some great over-the-top fighting choreographed by
Ching Siu-Tung. Stephen Fung and Nicholas Tse handle the fight
sequences well, and newcomer Samuel Pang shows considerable
screen presence. The best parts of My School Mate, the Barbarian
occur when the characters are forced to fight toe-to-toe,
as the fighting is energetic, brutal and exciting.
But they're not the whole movie.
The rest of the film involves making friends (Stone has intimacy
issues), studying harder (Edward helps his new delinquent
buddies pass the qualifying exams), and getting along with
the opposite sex. For the last plotline, Wong Jing has enlisted
popular singer Joey Yung, who's photogenic and cute, but
also incredibly annoying. She's afflicted with one of those
rare medical diseases you only find in Hong Kong Cinema: Every
time she sees Edward, she starts screaming and runs away in
fast motion. It's funny the first time, but afterwards it
just gets tiresome.
Then there's the video game connection.
Like we learned with Future Cops, Wong Jing loves his
video games. One of the key fights involves moves inspired
by arcade fighting games, complete with points given onscreen.
Like Yung's antics, that's amusing once but after a period
of time it just looks silly. This swinging between tough over-the-top
action and lame hijinks worked great back in the eighties,
but it just comes off as cloying and unnecessary here.
If his filmography is any indication,
director Billy Chung probably would have made an edgier picture
if left to his devices. But remember, Wong Jing wrote, produced
and co-directed this thing. As it is, this movie is a hodge-podge
of genres that never amounts to much more than a passing
curiosity. The fighting can be fun, but if you have a fast-forward
button you may want to use it. (Kozo 2001)