My School Mate, the Barbarian (2001)

myschoolmatethebarbarian

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Get ready for a fight at this school, from the duo of Wong Jing and Billy Chung that despite some of Wong’s trademark OTT moments, is actually a decent fight flick.

Edward Chan is a top student who is trying to pass the all-important HKCCE test to get into a good university. However, when his jealous ex gets him expelled from school from trumped up assault charges, his business-conscious mother has intended to get him into the top school in the area. However, a glitch sends him to TBS, which is a band five school. In other words, TBS is one of the worst schools in the area.

From his first day, Edward finds himself the target of bully Big Mouth. When a student at TBS engages in a confrontation with another student, the administration does not help. Instead, the students settle their score in a classroom full of desks, which make up the “ring”. When Edward is beaten up, he finds an ally in fellow student Stone, who until six months ago, was the best fighter in TBS, only to give up his title when he makes a promise never to fight again. Stone teaches Edward to defend himself. Edward does get his revenge on Big Mouth and finds a potential romance with fellow student Phoenix. However, when Edward is kidnapped by gang boss Tiger, the one who knows where Tiger is is Mantis, a student who forces Stone to do what he promised never to do again in order to save his friend.

Wong Jing is quite an interesting figure in Hong Kong cinema. When it was announced he would be directing a high school fight film, it is not surprising that he would have to add some of his trademark gags that the viewer will either love or hate. In this case, it is more the latter only for one reason. In the case for female lead Phoenix, played by Cantopop star Joey Yung, she is forced to constantly scream insanely when she sets her sights on lead character Edward, played by Stephen Fung. At first, it is cute like a girl having a big crush and freaking out at the sight of him. However, as the film progresses and it constantly continues, it becomes increasingly annoying.

On the plus side though, the chemistry between Fung and co-lead Nicholas Tse remains from their days as Gen-X Cops and it is clear why for a short period of time, Fung and Tse could be considered a prolific pair in the entertainment industry. Not only did they act together in films, but Tse and Fung have even collaborated on music together. That’s how deep their friendship is and it shows in their polar opposite characters of the nerdy Edward and the more (pun intended) stone cold Stone. While Edward’s story is straightforward, Stone’s backstory is revealed midway through as to why he has not fought in six months and it makes the viewer more sympathetic.

The fight scenes, choreographed by the legendary Tony Ching Siu-Tung, are quite fun to watch. The high school brawls, which take place on a “ring” made up of desks with the rule that the first fighter to fall off the desks loses, have a bit of comic relief in terms of the rematch between Edward and Yu Ka-Ho’s Big Mouth. However, the big surprise comes in newcomer Samuel Pang’s Mantis, a student who throughout the entire film, wants Stone to fight him to see who the best is between the two. However, when an opportunity arises, Pang shows his physicality in the role of Mantis, rightfully named for his expertise in praying mantis kung fu. The finale, which pits action director Lee Tat-Chiu in the role of Tiger, against Stone and Edward, takes the Wong Jing approach at times of using moves from a video game and in the case of one particular sequence, it is ridiculous but expected of Wong.

My School Mate, the Barbarian is not a bad Hong Kong fight film. While it has some typical Wong Jing gags, altogether, it is not a bad film at all, thanks in part to Tony Ching’s action in the high school to the chemistry between real-life buddies Stephen Fung and Nicholas Tse.

WFG RATING: B

A Film Power Ltd. Presentation. Directors: Wong Jing and Billy Chung. Producer: Wong Jing. Writer: Wong Jing. Cinematography: Dick Tung. Editing: Poon Hung.

Cast: Nicholas Tse, Stephen Fung, Joey Yung, Samuel Pang, Ken Chung, Hyper BB, Yu Ka-Ho, Lee Tat-Chiu, Helen Poon, Dick Tung.

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