This Chinese action drama focuses on the Korean martial art of tae kwon do and has a sort of Best of the Best-vibe, but is not too bad.
Lingling heads to the Navigation Tae Kwon Do Academy in hopes to train under Coach Zhao Yumin. At first, Zhao refuses to train the young woman but offers her a test to run to a train station, buy a ticket, and return within three hours. After surprisingly making it in time, Zhao decides to have her train with his two top students Yan Xiaodong and Yu Yuan.
Gao Zhi is the current national tae kwon do champion and he is one cocky fighter. Months ago, he defeated the Navigation’s top champion Han Xufeng, who due to serious injury, died when the match between them had ended. Lingling’s determination to train hard is for a very good reason: Lingling has revealed herself to be the sister of Han Xufeng, and blames herself partly for her brother’s death yet doesn’t like how Gao has acted as a result of winning the match. Will Lingling be able to persevere and be able to be as good as her brother, or will the guilt from her brother’s death lead her to end up meeting a similar fate?
Writer/director Xie Yi focuses on the art of tae kwon do with this film, led by Kung Fu Hustle’s Eva Huang, who plays the determined Lingling and in one of his final film performances, the legendary Gordon Liu as her coach. While the film mainly focuses on Lingling and her determination to first learn tae kwon do, then try her hardest to be an able-bodied fighter, there are a few small subplots that help drive the film. One involves Coach Zhao’s honor as a teacher destroying his relationship with his family as well as a possible but then non-existent “love triangle” between Lingling, Xiaodong, and Yu. Xiaodong’s help with Lingling truly brings a sense of jealousy towards the young upstart but when Lingling vows not to pursue Xiaodong, it puts Yu at major ease.
Veteran Hong Kong actor Mark Cheng surprisingly was forty-nine when he shot this film as the film’s cocky champion Gao Zhi. However, he surely doesn’t look that age and because of a win against a former classmate and because he got sponsored by a business company, he acts like he’s the man to beat. The problem is that his new coach, played by another veteran, Waise Lee, doesn’t approve of Gao’s impression when he is interviewed by a reporter. Gao only has one thing in mind: become the world tae kwon do champion and for himself, not for his sponsors. Daniel Chan plays Han Xufeng only in the flashback scenes and his reason for his untimely death isn’t what one might expect and actually proves to be quite an interesting spin on the film’s central plot.
Zhang Yiyang served as the film’s action director and does quite a nice job choreographing the tae kwon do fight scenes. The cast must have worked hard on training for the film because even with some wire assisted moves, the fights look quite nice. One exciting aspect of the Han-Gao flashback fight is the use of overhead angle to show the kicking skills of both competitors. Gao even engages in a brief fight against some of the Navigation’s students and the finale between Gao and Lingling is nicely done as well. It has a sort of BEST OF THE BEST vibe and while it may not be as good as that film, it holds its own.
High Kickers is actually a decent Mainland-shot film that focuses on tae kwon do, thanks to the cast working hard. It is also great to see Gordon Liu as a mentor of sorts in one of his final film performances to date. Worth checking out for an afternoon or even a wake up viewing.
WFG RATING: B
A Beijing Century Mingxuan Cultural and Communication Co. Ltd./Beijing Chuangxing Cultural and Communications Co. Ltd. Production. Director: Xie Yi. Producers: Li Ming and Li Cheng. Writer: Xie Yi. Cinematography: Xue Gang. Editing: Xie Yi.
Cast: Eva Huang, Daniel Chan, Mark Cheng, Gordon Liu, Li Ming, Li Xiziong, Zhang Yiyun, Xiao Baozhong, Wu Shaojiang, Chen Zhong, Kang Yang, Fan Fangyu.