Kung Fu Lion (2023)

Posted in Reviews by - October 15, 2023
Kung Fu Lion (2023)

A delicate coming-of-age drama set in Rotterdam about two frustrated teenage boys who train at the same kung fu school. Jimmy (Tyrell Williams) is sifu’s star pupil who becomes something of a troublemaker, eager to fight with bullies and use his kung fu for power and prestige. His ego is bruised when wushu wunderkind Li Jie (Haye Lee) joins the school – the new kid in town with great martial arts skills who Jimmy quickly sees as a threat to his own sense of self. To curb their rivalry, sifu (played by Lau Kar-leung‘s nephew, the Hung Gar expert and kung fu star, Lau Kar-yung) pairs them together to perform as part of a prestigious lion dance ceremony, a traditional symbol of good luck and prosperity at social gatherings. As the teenagers bond through the course of their training – doing impressions of Bruce Lee and Jet Li – it is revealed that, of course, they have more in common with each other than simply kung fu. Jimmy has to learn about patience and alternate ways to control his more damaging, violent impulses (“your heart and head have no focus”, says his sifu); while Li Jie is still grieving the death of his mother and rebelling against the pressures of a strict, demanding father who expects nothing but the best from his son. Anyone in the western world who has taken kung fu lessons as a teenager will surely identify with aspects of Jimmy’s story: the kung fu movie posters on his wall, his desire to train and learn about Chinese culture and traditions, even if he struggles with chopsticks. The casting of Lau Kar-yung adds a real sense of authenticity to the film, given his incredible lineage back to the real-life Wong Fei-hung. This isn’t quite an action film, although the wushu scenes and kung fu battles are neatly choreographed and in keeping with the overall tone of the drama. Instead, the film’s message is more focused on the mental, social and spiritual benefits of kung fu practice, as well as the physical.

AKA: Kung Fu Leeuw.

This post was written by
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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