This modern day Hong Kong action comedy was very well received when released. It won Best Movie at the 30th Hong Kong Film Awards in 2011 and nested its lead actor Teddy Robin, the Best Actor award at the 17th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards. Gordon Lam Ka-tung, who produced the movie, had gone on to eventually win Best Actor himself for crime drama “Trivisa” in 2016. However, full credits must also go to Andy Lau, who green lighted the making of this movie.
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“Gallants” is about a young real estate man who is sent to a small town outside Hong Kong to investigate a housing dispute. Apparently, a rival school is bullying some old folks to selling their old teahouse which used to be a martial arts training center run by Master Law, who, unfortunately, is in a coma. It’s during this troubled time that he wakes up suddenly, full of energy and eager to rebuild his old school.
There is a lot to like in this charming movie, it’s a clever tribute of the 60s to 70s old kung fu movies. Master Law, played here by Teddy Robin is simply wonderful, that’s after he wakes up from his coma of course. Because he’s been sleeping for 30 years, he’s totally disoriented with his deep-rooted philosophy, consequently resulting in some very funny situations. But Teddy lights up the screen in every frame he appears in, and, furthermore, he’s funny, witty with his dialogue, enchanting and absolutely a delight to behold.
Shaw Brother’s veteran Chen Kuan-tai plays Dragon, Master Law’s student who converts the dojo into a teahouse while he was in a coma. This recalls the 1974 Shaw Brother’s “The Teahouse”, also starring Chen Kuan-tai. Tiger, another student is played by Bruce Leung Siu-lung, you’ll remember him in Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle where he plays the ‘Beast’. As royal students to their Master, they keep the dojo alive, but now trouble is heading their way.
Apart from these veterans, the much younger real estate man, Leung king-cheung is played by Wong You-nam. He’s a loser with a dead end job, and now he has the task to bring peace between two rival schools fighting over the teahouse. To make things worse, the leader of the rival school, Chung Shen-mang (MC Jin) is the old schoolmate he used to bully. But now, Chung has turned into a kung fu expert, while Cheung himself is still a weak and wimpy man. Accordingly, all this leads him to take up kung fu from the old masters at the teahouse, where he eventually falls for a lovely young girl, Kwai (JJ Jia) who works there.
The action, mostly from Chen Kuan-tai and Bruce Leung, is spectacular and bone crunching. Director Derek Kwok and Clement Cheng take their kung fu seriously; there are no fancy wirework or CGI effects to spoil the realistic and hard hitting action, beautifully choreographed by Yuen Tak. Interestingly, another Show Brothers veteran, Lo Meng, the ‘Toad’ from Five Deadly Venoms, shows up going ‘toe to toe’ with Chen Kuan-tai, not once but twice. It’s absolutely magic and riveting to watch them.
Sure, with a movie like “Gallants”, young viewers probably won’t be interested in seeing the veterans; furthermore, its young cast can’t possibly carry the movie by themselves. Nonetheless, this is a well-balanced movie with a big heart. It touches on the ‘never give up’ of the human spirit, friendship and growing old. There is plenty of witty humor throughout, and to top it off, it’s pure entertainment. Anyone who enjoys Hong Kong cinema will love it.