Posts Tagged ‘Indonesia’

Bottom Line: 6 / 10

My honest thought that the movie was a very good commentary on Chinese pugilism in the 21st Century. The writing generated a good film pace and a rather good cast – though Karen Mok and her beautiful mouth (perhaps her only redeeming feature) was given a rather cursory role as an investigating detective, authentically speaking canto while the rest of the cast spoke in Mandarin or English. The even a cameo for Iko Uwais the star of Indonesia’s The Raid: Redemption. The story depicts a Tai chi practitioner who in an amazing bout of innovation decides to invent a spectacular aggressive  permutation of his chosen martial school and gets ultimately corrupted and SURPRISE…. redeems himself.

Of course I went into watching the show with an intense skeptism of Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut as well as him inserting and casting himself as the nefarious Dohaka Mark, a villain (the surprise) who organises underground no-holds-barred voyeuristic fighting matches.

Though Perhaps one could read deeper into the themes, and yes maybe I try too hard but that’s my prerogative on the blog, so bear with me – you get to see protagonist Chen Lin hu become a good allegory for the Chinese as a nation (come on, even the surname is as generic as it gets -Chen = Tan here too, even makes sense in a Singaporean context.)  He does his blue collar delivery job with adequate obeisance (working class hero / working class) in which he dons a bright yellow jacket, while displays a stark dichotomy by talking suavely in martial arts tournaments and swaggers after wins while deviating from the normal gentleness of his style ‘ling kong tai chi’ of which he is the only heir (Entrepreneurial mindset / embryonic innovator) but is chided by his aging Master (authority figure / Cultural conservatism)  whose temple is about to be shut down for safety violations. Keanu, the necessary Caucasian face of western monetary and/or economic intervention runs a shady security company that seduces Lin hu to abandon his ethics in favour of a much higher cashflow (One is tempted to assume America as a coercive force, but let’s use our imagination, shall we?) . We at first see him use the newfound funds to buy home appliances and better food for his parents of which he is typically an only son, but later starts taking greater liberties in both his in-match and out-of-the-ring behaviour until he’s basically Van Damme in real life (ba dum tish). I found a good basis for my interpretation – almost every opponent that he fights has a nationality of a Tier-one chinese city economic competitor – A russian who has his eyes stabbed out, a northern chinese fighter (northern states?) , a Korean in full Tae Kwon Do gi and culminating in a showdown with Iko Uwais’ character of which, oh my, our hero is hesitant to beat up (Indonesia: 3rd largest population in the world, fast growth rate and earnest competitor? Some people might think otherwise)

Rather than go into the full details of the plot, here’s the highlights of why you should probably watch this with a client and make some semi-intelligent conversation using my points and not giving me any credit.

1. Action sequences are worth it because of Yuen Wo Ping‘s choreography – but I personally don’t appreciate the introduction of wire-fu-ness towards the end. It took away from the gristle of realism enforced throughout the whole frontal portion of the film where the fighting was both brutal and believable.

2. Themes are deeper than perceived. Already described in paragraph above. Feel free to liberally expound the faux-depth this fighting movie brings to the table to your candy-crush-preoccupied spouse, I’m sure a client on the other hand will minimally act amused.

3. You get to see Keanu Reeves get his ass handed to him. For me that’s the whole $10 SGD price of the ticket right there. First time he directs and casts himself as a villain and the first time he shoots himself getting whooped. Well, you get 20 seconds of Neo-nostalgia, just no cheesy movement restricting trenchcoat and vision-impairing sunglasses in a brawl.

Mark – away!