A young man learns life lessons through the martial art of Tae Kwon Do in this very emotional drama.
Ben is a foster youth who is nearing 18 and therefore, will therefore have to go on his own. He is constantly bullied by Dorian and his cronies. One fateful day, Ben is bullied to the point where he is struck by a car, rendering him paralyzed. As he is stuck in the hospital, he meets the vibrant Adrienne, a wheelchair-bound young woman who introduces Ben to her grandfather, Tae Kwon Do grandmaster Kang, who at first thinks Ben doesn’t want to be helped due to his behavior.
However, through Kang, Ben slowly begins to regain the ability to walk again and finds himself attracted to Adrienne. When Ben is strong enough to leave the hospital, he finds a job at Grandmaster Kang’s dojang while learning Tae Kwon Do to strengthen his spirit. However, on his continuing road to recovery, Ben finds himself facing not only past demons but new demons and in order to find himself, he must confront the demons of old and new not only for him, but those he cares about, including Adrienne and Grandmaster Kang when their lives are given their own curveballs.
There is a lesson about martial arts movies that should be evoked. When people hear about martial arts films, the first thing is that it is involves fights and when we mean fights, we mean Scott Adkins, Bruce Lee, and Jackie Chan among others showcasing their skills in a series of blistering fights. Then, there are those which have both fights and also have the sense of an emotional level, such as Best of the Best and its politically themed Hindi reboot, Lahore. Then there are those that show that martial arts is not about kicking butt but are about the spirit of martial arts and finding yourself through training, which this film falls under. Yes, the film involves Tae Kwon Do but the film is about one man’s quest to find himself through his training in the art and not rely on having to beat anyone up to prove himself.
Mike Faist, soon to be seen as Jets leader Riff in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story reboot, is excellent in the role of Ben, the tortured young man whose discovery to find himself we see throughout the film. It is a multi-step process for him as he goes from bullied to paralyzed due more to damaged nerves instead of a spine shatter. We then see him go through the torments of physical therapy but slowly begin to get his spirit up thanks to the support of Ellie Lee’s Adrienne and Grandmaster Kang, played by real-life TKD Grandmaster Ik Jo Kang, who also came up with the story and served as executive producer. Once he is able to walk again, we see Ben on his martial arts journey, which is met with various complications and it is up to him to find himself and not rely on others when the time calls for it.
Ellie Lee’s Adrienne seems like a very supporting character and potential love interest. However, we soon learn that some of her happiness is a façade for something she has been hiding out of fear. As for Grandmaster Kang, the issue with him is that he cares about teaching so much that money becomes an issue for him to keep the dojang afloat.
A great supporting character comes in the form of Tom, played by Ryan-James Hatanaka. Tom seems like Kang’s “perfect” student, giving Ben a sense of jealousy. However, Tom eventually tells his story and it gives Ben one of the life lessons he learns and there is a nice little twist when he faces off against one of his bullies. It may bring a sense of predictability, but it goes way beyond that and it is this unexpected twist that makes this all the better.
I Can, I Will, I Did proves that not all martial arts movies have to rely on fighting, but can have a story that evokes the spirit to find one within. Mike Faist gives a rousing performance as we see his journey from bullied and tormented to peaceful and collected through the martial arts.
WFG RATING: A
Randon Media presents a 408 Films Production. Director: Nadine Truong. Producers: Brian Yang and Artisha Mann Cooper. Writer: Nadine Truong; story by Grandmaster Ik Jo Kang and Linda Layman. Cinematography: Eugene Koh. Editing: Ben Kim.
Cast: Mike Faist, Grandmaster Ik Jo Kang, Ellie Lee, Jack DiFalco, Ryan-James Hatanaka, Selenis Leyva, Kyliegh Curran, Claire Warden, Cornelius Davidson.