Donnie Yen goes from super action hero to super teacher in this really good film that proves that he can tackle any genre and go against type when needed.
Former U.S. Marine Henry Chan has returned to Hong Kong and has been given a job as a teacher at Tak Chi Secondary School. The class he has been assigned to is the worst class in the school, Class 6-B. Upon his arrival, his students ignore him until he gets their attention by proving he can hold up with the rest of them. When five of his students get into a fight with the basketball team, Henry convinces Principal Lin to give the students one more chance. All but the outspoken Jack decide to take Henry up on his offer. Meanwhile, the school is in danger of losing its funding due to a lack of enrollment and lack of graduates getting admitted in universities.
Jack gets the attention of Kane Luo, a gangster who runs a boxing gym and whose boss wants to develop real estate where the school is located, after he steals Ying’s gold lighter. Meanwhile, Henry has gotten to know his students, notably tomboy Gladys, aspiring musician Gordon, and twins Chris and Bruce. Helping these kids overcome their issues, Henry decides to not give up on Jack. When Jack is framed up by Kane of drugging a MMA fighter, Henry shows up in time and fights off the MMA fighter and his cronies. The news makes national headlines and soon, the kids have found someone they can respect. However, a major incident puts Henry in danger of losing his job. What will happen when Kane sets up a plan to set his boss’ plan in motion?
Donnie Yen is truly the man! He has been able to showcase his action skills for a number of years, but there are times when he is given roles that allow him to do something different. 2004’s Love on the Rocks allowed Yen to showcase his acting skills in the romantic comedy genre. Yen got a chance to do comedy in 2011 and 2012’s installments of the All’s Well Ends Well films. For this film, where there are a few highlight action scenes, the film is more about an ex-Marine turned teacher who attempts to get through to his students, much like Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds.
Yen is great to watch as Henry Chan, who is a green teacher, having zero experience in education. However, he brings to mind a method in getting to know his students on a personal level in order to tap into their minds. However, in a great move, we get to learn about Henry’s past and reasoning behind his new job and at times, it is sad, but for Henry, it’s his personal story of redemption. He focuses solely on five kids with serious issues. One is Jack, played by newcomer Lok Ming-Kit, who lives with his grandmother and works part-time jobs to make ends meet. Jack’s character is reminiscent of Lauryn Hill’s Rita in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Jack is the outcast who eventually comes to his senses when he finds himself in major bind.
The viewer gets to go along for Yen’s ride as we get to know more about the students. Gladys Li plays tomboy Gladys Wong, who only wants acceptance from her father in terms of her hobby of cars and the fact that just because she’s a woman, doesn’t mean she has to be traditional. Gordon Lau plays Pakistani-Hong Kong ticket scalper Gordon, who wants to become a pop star when he grows up. Real life twins Chris and Bruce Tong play Chris and Bruce Kwan, the former a video game addict and the latter who suffers from ADHD and tends to keep the familial bond together despite their alcoholic father, who finds drinking as a way to get over his wife leaving him.
There are only three major action sequences in the film, all involving Yen. Yen relied on his stunt team, notably Kenji Tanigaki and Koji Kawamoto, to be able to showcase Yen’s action skills against various opponents. The locker room fight has Yen take on the likes of Jess Liaudin, Brahim Achabbakhe and Tom Caserto, with Hong Kong’s great Mike Leeder looking on as he cheers for Liaudin as his manager. The second has Yen take on many of villain Kane’s men in the schoolyard using the environment to his advantage even more than the first fight. Then comes the finale between Yen and Yu Kang’s Kane, who has a fixation with classical music but loves a good fight at the same time. As Kane, Yu Kang tends to do a bit of overacting, but it helps with the character, who is willing to do what it takes to please his boss.
Big Brothers is a pretty good vehicle in Donnie Yen’s filmography. Along with his three action set pieces, Yen gives a great performance in a film whose theme is redemption, both from the students’ and the teacher himself as they all find it within themselves.
WFG RATING: B+
Well Go USA presents a Mega-Vision Pictures Limited and Super Bullet Films production. Director: Kam Ka-Wai. Producers: Donnie Yen, Wong Jing, Connie Wong, Jeffrey Chan, and Stanley Tong. Writer: Chan Tai-Li. Cinematography: Jam Yau. Editing: Li Ka-Wing.
Cast: Donnie Yen, Joe Chen, Lok Ming-Kit, Gordon Lau, Gladys Wong, Bruce Tong, Chris Tong, Yu Kang, Dominic Lam, Alfred Cheung, Wu Fung, Felix Lok, Benjamin Au-Yeung, Billy Lau, Lee Fung, Koo Tin-Lung, Yun Qian-Qian, Tse Sit-Chun, Chaney Lin, Wen Zhi, Mike Leeder, Jess Liaudin, Brahim Achabbakhe, Tom Caserto.