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Gallants
Chinese: 打擂台

Gallants
Gallants
Gallants
Gallants


Availability:
DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Kam and Ronson
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

Find this at YesAsia.com

Year: 2010
Director: Derek Kwok Chi-Kin, Clement Cheng Sze-Kit
Producer: Gordon Lam Ka-Tung
Action: Yuen Tak
Cast: Chen Kuan-Tai, Bruce Leung Siu-Lung, Teddy Robin, Wong Yau-Nam, JJ Jia, Siu Yam-Yam, Jin Au-Yeung, Chan Wai-Man, Li Hai-Tao, Law Wing-Cheong, Lo Meng, Goo Goon-Chung
The Skinny: This unheralded little movie is thus far 2010's biggest surprise - an entertaining and winning kung-fu comedy with plenty of old-school Hong Kong Cinema love. Featuring excellent action plus a terrific star turn from Teddy Robin. Exec-produced by some guy named Andy Lau.

Review
by Kozo:
On paper, The Gallants is a tough sell. Derek Kwok and Clement Cheng's unexpected Hong Kong film is a genre movie cocktail, combining character drama, kung-fu comedy, old-school martial arts story and inspirational zero-to-hero tale. Add in a starring cast largely in their retirement age, and you have a movie that few Hong Kong youngsters would pay to see. Sure, it's got Wong Yau-Nam and JJ Jia, but can they sell a movie? No, they can't, meaning we're back to square one: how the hell do you sell The Gallants? I have no idea, but if there's justice in this world they'll figure it out and audiences will go, because this is one of the most surprising and enjoyable Hong Kong movies this year.

Wong Yau-Nam plays Cheung, who as a youth used to practice silly kung-fu stances and unfairly bully one of the neighborhood kids. Now a useless adult in a crappy real estate job, he’s routinely berated by his boss and finally sent on a thankless task: to secure a remote rural property for redevelopment. That property: a rundown teahouse operated by martial artists Dragon (Chen Kuan-Tai) and Tiger (Leung Siu-Lung), dutiful pupils to their sifu Master Law (Teddy Robin), who's been in a coma since a legendary duel some years back. The teahouse used to be Master Law's dojo, dubbed the "Gate of Law", and Dragon and Tiger are under pressure from thugs out to claim its deed. Soon Cheung finds himself aligned with Tiger and Dragon, as something about the old dudes' noble struggle touches him.

Well, sort of. Actually, Cheung wants to learn martial arts because he thinks it'll help him get his mojo back, but it's not that simple. For one thing, the "bad guys" are the people he's supposed to be working for, and one of them is Mang (MC Jin), the neighborhood kid that Cheung used to beat up. There's more at stake than real estate; also interested in the proceedings are Master Pong (Chan Wai-Man) and Pon Ka-Kwun (Li Haitao), the men behind a fancy-schmancy martial arts competition. They're looking to conquer the Gate of Law, but Tiger and Dragon oppose them. Soon Master Law wakes up, and he might be their best chance to save the dojo. That is, if Law can keep his sanity in check and get his boys back into shape. Will Dragon, Tiger and Cheung learn the right moves to triumph at the upcoming martial arts tourney?

Gallants begs for a hackneyed zero-to-hero story arc, but Clement Cheng and Derek Kwok sidestep that formula for themes that hew closer to the martial arts spirit. The fighting here is not about power or triumph, but instead about making an effort and conquering oneself. The bad guys appear to be bad guys, but they're really not – they've perhaps just lost the point of their martial arts training. It's a nice message, and one that makes the film more accomplished than its high concept story would indicate. The only downside is that such a payoff is cerebral and internal, rather than cathartic – and audiences nowadays, they like their cathartic climaxes. The film does have a romantic plotline involving Cheung and teahouse helper Kwai (comely JJ Jia), but it goes mostly unexplored. Also, no massive martial arts tourney is given to the audience, which is not an unexpected outcome, given the film's low budget. Sometimes predicting where a film goes is all about looking at the expense sheet.

What's surprising is the film's adoration for martial arts cinema of old. Aside from its excellent action (from choreographer Yuen Tak), Gallants gives roles to old martial arts stars; the cast features many Shaw Brothers veterans, from Chen Kuan-Tai to Lo Meng (of the Five Venoms) to Goo Goon-Chung (Buddha's Palm, among others) and former sex kitten Siu Yam-Yam. References and homages abound, from Chen Kuan-Tai's occupation – he runs a teahouse, just like in his classic 1974 actioner The Teahouse - to the super-crazy Shaw Brothers-style zooms, awesome freeze-frames and onscreen text announcing each cast member. Teddy Robin's score recalls fan-favorite spaghetti westerns, and the story itself is a sly variation on a standard martial arts plot (two kung-fu disciples protect the dojo of their incapacitated master). The training montages and referential gags should also be familiar to anyone who's watched more than a few martial arts movies. Gratefully, the film is meta without being coy, and seldom winks at the audience to tell them that it's better than its inspiration.

The film's secret weapon, however, might be producer-actor-musician Teddy Robin as martial arts guru Master Law. Robin is small but urbane, and when he's haranguing his students or hitting on nubile women, it's funny and strangely uplifting. Master Law is far from a superhero, and his mortal status ultimately provides the film with its most affecting emotions. When he's not in a coma, however, Master Law is the one to watch, and Robin nails the role with hilarious, satisfying aplomb. He's the cherry on top of this kung-fu comedy sundae, which is loaded with so much old school martial arts movie goodness that forgiving its minor flaws is very easy. Gallants is a movie full of pure, unadulterated Hong Kong Cinema love. For the proper audience, returning that affection should only feel natural. (Kozo, reviewed at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, 2010)


   
   
   
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