AKA: The Gallants
Director: Derek Kwok, Clement Cheng
Writer: Derek Kwok, Clement Cheng, Frankie Tam
Cast: Wong You Nam, Teddy Robin Kwan, Bruce Leong, Chen Kuan-tai, Michael Chan Wai-man, Lo Meng, Jin Au-Yeung (aka MC Jin), Jia Xiao-Chen, Shaw Yum Yum
Running Time: 98 min.
By Jeff Bona
Cheung (Wong You Nam) is a nerdy loser who has a bottom-of-the-barrel job for a real estate company. His boss, who has had enough of his incompetence, gives him a special assignment: settling a property development dispute in a rural village.
This brings Cheung to the door steps of an old teahouse, that was once a kung fu school until its legendary teacher, Master Law (Teddy Robin Kwan), fell into a coma during a famous duel. The teahouse is operated by Dragon (Chen Kuan-tai) and Tiger (Bruce Leung), two of Master Law’s original students. Transforming the school into a teahouse was their way of keeping the school afloat while they eagerly wait for their sifu to awaken.
Meanwhile, trouble is brewing. A group of local thugs, connected to a shady martial arts competition, are after the real estate in which the teahouse stands. Miraculously, Master Law awakens in the midst of the sticky situation. Now Cheung, Tiger, Dragon, and a very confused Master Law, must bound together to keep their honor, dignity and the spirit of their school alive.
Gallants is a creative, trippy and nostalgic nod to kung fu movies of the 1970’s. It’s all here: the Joseph Koo-esque soundtrack, the fast zooming, and the crisp, pleasantly undercranked martial arts sequences. Even animated cut scenes designed to signify the impact of a kick or punch (comparable to Sonny Chiba’s X-ray head-smash in The Street Fighter) are thrown in to top off the film’s artistic flare.
Starring legendary actors/actresses and martial arts stars of yesteryear: Teddy Robin Kwan (Run Tiger Run), Bruce Leung (The Dragon Lives Again), Chen Kuan-tai (Executioners from Shaolin), Michael Chan Wai-man (Five Elements Ninjas), Lo Meng (Five Deadly Venoms) and Shaw Yum Yum (The Chinatown Kid). The fact that all these Hong Kong legends are in the same movie is a dream come true, especially if you’re a fan of the old school films they’re known for.
Teddy Robin Kwan nails his role like a champ. I admit, I haven’t seen him in a lot of movies, but I don’t think I would be out of line to call this one of his best-handled roles ever. To a similar extent, the same can be said about Chen Kuan-tai and Bruce Leung, who get the most “action” screen-time. Of course you have the new generation of talent: Wong You Nam (rising actor and member of music duo “Shine”), Jin Au-Yeung (aka MC Jin, hip hop musician turned actor) and Jia Xiao-Chen (model turned actress).
Directors Derek Kwok and Clement Cheng are perfect examples of some of Hong Kong’s more experimental filmmakers. Their humor lies somewhere between Stephen Chow and Mike Judge. Their filmmaking craft equals an inspired Quentin Tarantino and their thought process is that of a grown man’s love for a good ol’ kung fu flick.
Jeff Bona’s Rating: 8/10