Usually showing seriousness when it comes to his roles, Donnie Yen has without a doubt become one of the biggest action stars in Hong Kong, especially with his recent efforts. However, in 1985, Yen takes the lead in a more comical sense where he not only does his trademark martial arts skills, but the film’s central theme of the 1980’s trend that was breakdancing in only his second film.
Yen plays Eddie, a breakdancer who loves to life life freely, much to the chagrin of his sister Ying, who expects Eddie to be a good student. Eddie’s talents have caught the eye of rich popular girl, who has a bodyguard in Biggy. Biggy loves to humiliate Eddie in any way possible. What Eddie doesn’t realize is that his sister’s best friend and co-worker Stella has a crush on Eddie as well.
During a party, Eddie meets Mini, a lowly street urchin who has lost his sugar cane business to the police. When Eddie tries to take in Mini and Stella discovers Mini, the duo decide to try to convince Ying to help Mini. At first, Mini has to play the hiding game in some funny ways, including disguising himself as the top of a table holding a fish bowl. When Ying learns of the trio’s plans, Ying is coerced into helping Mini out by having him work at the restaurant Ying owns and operates. Soon enough, Ying and Mini begin to fall for each other.
Meanwhile, an American breakdancer named Jacky has arrived in Hong Kong to see his friend David, a rival of Eddie’s. When Jacky meets Anna, he is smitten over her, and Eddie finds himself competing against Jacky for the affections of Anna. When Eddie beats Jacky in a game of tennis in a very unorthodox method (using a bicycle as a racket), Eddie teaches Anna some of his dancing moves.
When Eddie goes to the gym with Mini to show off Biggy once and for all, Mini uses cheating tactics to show up Eddie. However, a fighter sees Eddie as a top fighter and he begins to stalk him in order to challenge him to a fight. Eddie soon starts to realize he may feelings for Stella after he sees her at a party with Jacky. This causes an ultimate breakdance showdown between Eddie and Jacky, but it is nothing compared to what Eddie must endure when he is challenged by the boxer.
Donnie Yen is perhaps known as the serious police officer who will do anything and use anything to get the bad guys in films such as SPL: Kill Zone and Flash Point. However, this being his second film with his mentor, Yuen Woo-Ping, Yen shows a more cool and collected role. In fact, this may in fact be Yen at his goofiest and fun role as breakdancer Eddie. The opening montage is just a taste of what to expect in the film as Yen shows off some pretty nice breakdancing moves and adds a taste of gymnastics to the mix.
Yuen Woo-Ping, in a rare occasion, is not only credited as the director and one of the screenwriters, but he plays the second leading role. As lowly street vendor Mini, he has the nerdy look and when he is approached by an American tourist with a camera, Yuen shows off some nice kung fu demonstrations, including monkey staff techniques. However, he takes on a comic role as he goes from accidentally mistaking chocolate for thumb tacks to bouncing his head off the ceiling. Aside from the action demonstrations, which are very short, he plays more of a comic-dramatic role as he falls for Eddie’s older sister Ying, played well by Wong Wan-Si.
Kenny Perez, who became the first American to enter China to train in contemporary wushu in 1980, does a spectacular job as Eddie’s arch rival Jacky. With his flexibility, Perez was able to showcase some amazing breakdancing skills as well. The final showdown between Perez and Yen is quite a delight to watch as they both combine Wushu, gymnastics, and breakdancing tocome up with a great battle that can rival some of the best breakdance battles in Hollywood films like Breakin’ and Beat Street. Despite their rivalry on screen, Perez and Yen got to become very good friends because of their love of Wushu.
As a result of acting and directing, Yuen decided to leave the martial arts choreography to his younger brother, Brandy Yuen, who is perhaps known for his role as the deaf henchman of the main bad guy in the 1979 kung fu film Jade Claw. To add some spice to the film, tae kwon do expert and veteran bad guy actor Dick Wei comes in as a fighter who will do anything to find a top fighter. When Eddie becomes his target, he even saves him on one occasion when Eddie is confronted by two harmless thugs.
The finale is actually quite a delight to watch as Yen resorts to using comical tactics as well as some of his traditional kicking skills mixed in to take on Wei, who uses his powerful kicking skills and punching techniques quite well. Despite some wirework to enhance some of the comic element in the fight, it is still quite a fun fight to enjoy.
Plenty of dancing, romance, and action make Mismatched Couples a fun film to watch, especially if they want to see Yuen Woo-Ping in a co-lead role and Donnie Yen in a very welcome departure from his serious action film roles.
WFG RATING: A-
A Peace Film (HK) Co. Ltd. Production. Director: Yuen Woo-Ping. Producer: Brandy Yuen. Writers: The Peace Group, Cheng Man-Wah, and Chiu Jing-Hong. Cinematography: Yu Chik-Lam.
Cast: Donnie Yen, Yuen Woo-Ping, May Lo, Wong Wan-Si, Anna Kamiyama, Kenny Perez, Mandy Chan, Dick Wei.