Donnie Yen’s comeback in a Hong Kong production is here, with “Big Brother”, an ideal film for Donnie Yen fans featuring fun, drama, high entertainment and lots of positivism, made and starred by himself (since he is the main protagonist and producer). “Big Brother, however, is not the typical Donnie Yen action movie; instead is that typical film of a man with a conflicted past who wants to get into teaching without any previous experience, that kind of film that got popularized so much since “To Sir With Love” and so many other well-known productions made since then. If you are an anime geek, maybe GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka) rings a bell. Well, “Big Brother” takes a few shots at being the Chinese Great Teacher Donnie.

Big Brother” screened at “San Diego Asian Film Festival

Donnie Yen is Henry Chen, and for some reason, he wants to be a high school teacher in a school with some troubled students. His class is the most conflicting one of all, but Henry will manage to teach them good values and manners in a very humane way.

The film does have a couple of fight scenes to satisfy the martial arts fan audience, but, in essence, is a drama. I appreciated that the film took the opportunity to discuss some complicated issues of current Hong Kong, such as the educational methods used by schools and the numerous cases of students suicide. The main group of students that the film focuses on is exceptional. We have Gordon (Gordon Lau) who is a student of Pakistani descent who wants to sing and be a great artist in the future; Jack, (Jack Lok / Mingjie Luo) who is a rebellious orphan boy who is involved in gangster affairs; Gladys (Gladys Li), a girl with a father who does not treat her properly, loves cars and formula one racing; and the twins Chris and Bruce (Chris and Bruce Tong) who live with their troubled father who has drinking issues.

The truth is that, for a film about teaching in high school and about the life of a teacher, we never see him teaching as such, except in a small scene where he explains the parts of a cigar and takes advantage of the situation to give them a lesson in human values. This is not an inconvenience, since instead, we see him dedicated on visiting this small group of students, one by one, to their homes to meet their family and see how they live. Little by little, Henry will help them overcome their problems so they get ahead in class and in life.

“Big Brother” does a great job in teaching values for the young audience that seems to be its target group, as well as adding action set pieces. The fight scene that takes place in a locker room is really great and lots of fun. Donnie Yen does a great job in his fight scenes as always, and as a drama actor he also defends himself well thanks to his presence, although his performance would benefit from a little more emotion. The rest of the cast is brilliant, showing lots of emotions with their characters.

The film’s pacing is maybe its strongest aspect, since its hour and a half is very enjoyable and entertaining. The direction is simple and effective, highlighting the performances of the whole cast, especially the young one, and the great Li Ka Wing’s editing. Although the film has several characters, you end up knowing and caring of all the important ones. It is true that Chan Tai-Li’s script contains many clichés and things already seen in countless stories, but when is that a problem when the story is well told and is fun to watch?

“Big Brother” is not a deep film, and it not pretends to be in any way, although it deals with some serious issues that occur in society and in the current education system; however it does a good job in mixing seriousness with humor. It will make you have a good time and get thrilled about the character’s conflicts, while teaching you that acts have consequences and being a tremendously entertaining movie. Do not miss it.

 

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Born in Spain in the early 90's. Anime has been with me all my life and i became a film lover on my mid-teen years. My interest and love for asian cinema especially began a couple of years later when i watched two specific films: Hard Boiled and Chungking Express. Since then, i'ts been non stop. I really fell in love with the style of Hong Kong action cinema and with all kinds of films from Japan, South Korea, China and Thailand. There's something very special in all these asian flicks: A unique style, originality, grittiness and passion. It's a whole new world. You can follow me on twitter: @PeterPayne9