Big Brother (2018)

Posted in Reviews by - July 05, 2021
Big Brother (2018)

Vibrant drama about Hong Kong’s secondary school education system which is enjoyable if a little saccharine at times a bit all over the place. Donnie Yen makes a neat transition into a straight, dramatic leading actor, playing new teacher Mr Chen, a former US marine who has turned his back on a life of violence and is now dedicating his time to safeguarding the future of Hong Kong’s youth at a public school where the paint is falling off the walls. He’s one of those cool teachers who wears jeans and rides a motorbike – think Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds – and faced with the threat of closure, he needs to earn the respect of his students for them to excel in their exams and save the school. The story focuses on a group of wayward pupils on the brink of expulsion; their existential teenage angst facing the might of Donnie Yen’s doe-eyed compassion. The story doesn’t shy away from some tough issues – bullying, drug addiction, suicide – and even though you can almost hear the clunking of the gear changes, the subjects are always dealt with in an inoffensive and understanding manner. Knowledge may be power, but in Mr Chen’s case, power is also power, as demonstrated when he rescues one of his pupils from the grips of a bullish gang of MMA hooligans. The action sequences never fully make sense in a film so concerned about making a social statement – but then again, who cares, because watching Donnie Yen explode into a kung fu frenzy is always welcome, with standout sequences in a locker room and a final brawl with Yu Kang, orchestrated by longtime Donnie Yen associate, Kenji Tanigaki. As producer and star, this is possibly Donnie’s most indulgent project to date, but also as a parent of teenagers himself – and as someone who has had to work incredibly hard to achieve his own amazing success – at least there is an indelible authenticity to his message.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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