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The Way We Dance
The Way We Dance

Cherry Ngan steps it up in The Way We Dance.
Chinese: 狂舞派  
Year: 2013  
Director: Adam Wong Sau-Ping  
Producer: Saville Chan, Roddy Wong Yat-Ping  
Writer:

Chan Tai-Lee, Saville Chan, Roddy Wong Yat-Ping, Adam Wong Sau-Ping

Cast: Cherry Ngan Cheuk-Ling, Babyjohn Choi, Lokman Yeung, Janice Fan, Tommy “Guns” Ly, Paul Wong Koon-Chung, Popper 88, Wong Ho-Fung, Heartgrey, Gloria Yip Wan-Yi, Bob Lam
The Skinny: Inspirational youth dance film from director Adam Wong that rises above other local films thanks to its winning characters and its detailed look at youth subculture. The film has flaws, but its positive spirit goes a long way in making the rough patches excusable. Leads Cherry Ngan and Babyjohn Choi are both excellent.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Six years after his charming and criminally underrated Magic Boy, director Adam Wong steps back onto Hong Kong cinema screens with The Way We Dance. This urban dance film is exceptionally conventional and commercial – that is, it would be if it were made anywhere but Hong Kong, where audiences get their hip hop hoofing from Korean pop MVs and Step Up movies. Populist filmmaking in Hong Kong trends towards romantic comedies and star-driven thrillers, so it’s terrific that a youth dance film like The Way We Dance even got made. Bonus: the film offers surprising performances from new local young talent and brings to life Hong Kong and its unique subcultures in a rare and entertaining way. Globally it’s no great shakes, but locally? The Way We Dance is a special Hong Kong film.

Young Cherry Ngan (whose biggest role before this was as Simon Yam’s daughter in Nightfall) stars as Fleur (or “Fa”), a hip young thing who works in her family’s tofu shop. Fleur leaves her parochial origins behind and heads to university, where she chases her dream of joining BombA, the school’s number one street dance group led by her handsome crush Dave (real-life street dancer Lokman Yeung). Fleur immediately impresses everyone with her vivacious energy and unexpected dance skills, but soon leaves the group when Dave hooks up with new BombA dancer Rebecca (Janice Fan), a midriff-baring bombshell who becomes an instant object of campus desire. Dejected, Fleur joins the school’s Tai Chi club, led by the mustachioed Alan (Babyjohn Choi), a goofy greaser who’s nicknamed “Dickhead Alan” for unflattering reasons. Alan couldn’t be happier with Fleur’s presence because he not only admires Fleur’s talent; he’s sweet on her too.

Fleur soon comes to value her friendship with Alan, and the two bond over dance, Tai Chi, tofu delivery and crab-watching (Really!). Meanwhile, BombA starts to bomb – Rebecca reveals herself to be a straight-up Jezebel, and parlays her new BombA fame into a tabloid-attracting gig as a cosplay idol. Now sans Rebecca and Fleur, BombA could use help with the upcoming Dance Chample contest, where they’ll face off against dance rival The Rooftoppers, led by street-dancing legend Stormy (Tommy “Guns” Ly, also a real-life street dancer). Will the BombA youngsters overcome their differences and forge forward in pursuit of their dreams, while also earning the respect of the clearly superior Rooftoppers? Yeah, of course they will – and saying so does not constitute a spoiler. Frankly, it doesn’t make sense for a youth dance film to end with the destruction of its protagonists’ hope and pride. Such an ending belongs to a different genre, like documentary.

Good movies can emerge from conventional stories, and that’s what Adam Wong and co-writer/producer Saville Chan accomplish with The Way We Dance. The character arcs are tried and true, but the film hits its emotional beats quite well. The production is technically solid, with authentic Hong Kong locations that are rendered attractively but not glamorized. Dance sequences are more than adequate; Sing Mak’s choreography is entertaining, though the inclusion of long, detailed dance sequences stretches the film out to an extended two-plus hours. There’s also parkour and a fusion of dance and Tai Chi – a fun mix that makes the film distinctly Hong Kong yet avoids being pandering or exotic. The set pieces may come across as somewhat manufactured; the dancers are clearly performing for the film audience, and some dance scenes feature beats that instantly drop out of nowhere. But the film’s entertaining rhythm and positive attitude are hard to resist.

The Way We Dance actually works best in the moments in between dances, largely due to its accurate portrayal of Hong Kong youth culture, not to mention the characters, who are as winning as they come. Both Cherry Ngan and Babyjohn Choi turn in surprising performances as Fa and Alan, giving their characters depth and most especially life. Choi does both hot-tempered and mature with charismatic dorkiness, while Ngan gives genuine spark to her youthful sparkplug of a character. Ngan’s expressions are vivid and project spontaneity; she’s the discovery of the film, though a large portion of the credit should go to director Adam Wong. Like with his previous Magic Boy, Wong wrests fine performances from younger, untempered actors. Much has been said about Hong Kong Cinema’s dearth of young talent, but in Adam Wong’s films, that doesn’t seem to apply. Maybe this talent deficiency is something that can be attributed to major studios rather than filmmakers?

The enjoyable rapport between the characters helps to compensate for some of the film’s more clumsy emotions. In particular, Rebecca’s character arc feels forced, especially since her backstory is so detailed and Janice Fan receives less screentime than her co-stars. Maudlin monologues are tough to avoid or excuse in conventional commercial cinema, and that’s where The Way We Dance kind of trips up. This is a feel-good movie with no real bad guys, and seeing the filmmakers justify every character positively causes the gears to occasionally grind. Still, the film’s energy and heart excuse its imperfections, and propel it above most local cinema into something special and worth celebrating. These are young filmmakers and actors finding inspiration in their surroundings to deliver something that, if not entirely accomplished, nonetheless sings. As one character in the film pointedly says, “These are the scars of our youth. Don’t laugh at them!” For The Way We Dance, that’s the least we can do. (Kozo, 4/2013)

 

Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
2-DVD Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Camtpmese amd Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital EX
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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Image credit: Golden Scene

   
   
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