Staff Recommendation/ Gallants

Cornerhouse Digital Reporter Paul Atkinson reviews Gallants

Gallants poses the age old question, what happens to martial arts masters when they get old?  Disregard your mental image of the low key performance Pat Morita delivered as Mister Miygi because Gallants offers an altogether less dignified answer.

The film opens with a comedic voiceover, introducing one of life’s true losers, Cheung.  Devoid of any measure of assertiveness and seemingly incapable of maintaining his own balance, Cheung longs to attain the stature and presence of the great Kung Fu masters of a bygone era.  After causing one too many health and safety disasters at work, he is sent away to resolve a dispute concerning a small eating establishment with a surprising heritage.

Soon after arriving in the small town, Cheung finds himself at the centre of a brawl and, reminiscent of the scene from The Karate Kid, he is rescued by ageing Kung Fu expert, Tiger.  Both Tiger and his equally age concerned friend Dragon, soon become the central focus of the feature, as they come to terms with their ageing torsos and the declining health of their once great Master Law, stuck in a coma for 30 years.  Tiger and Dragon, Law’s most trusted disciples, have tended to him and pined for his return to consciousness to give their life meaning again.

While the film’s comedic tone is evident throughout, the humour levels rocket after a group of henchmen break into the old Law Dojo, leaving Tiger and Dragon to fend off the attack.  As the two old warriors defend their home and their honour an event takes place that changes the tone of the film, creating some laugh out loud moments, wholly inappropriate behaviour and stresses the importance of keeping your preserved duck with you at all times.

Deploying various tropes from Kung Fu films past and present with long slow motion shots, frenetic fight scenes and jazzy character introductions setting the mood of the film from the start.  The film delivers where it needs to and although the inevitably transformed Cheung takes the centre stage, he is not the star of the show.  Gallants is at its most enthralling when dealing with Tiger and Dragon as their age and ailments stop them from reliving their past glory.  Despite their weaknesses, these two loveable senior citizens of martial arts deliver plenty of fast paced action and learn to recapture their purpose, if not their youth.

Beneath its oversized jade pendant, Gallants offers some great slapstick action that Jackie Chan fans will applaud, with a sense of humour that rekindled forgotten memories of Big Trouble in Little China with a sprinkling of Kung Fu Panda thrown in for good measure.  Just be prepared to abandon any preconceived ideas you may have had about the mystical and spiritual persona of the enigmatic Master Law.  Gallants is a fun action comedy that never takes itself too seriously telling, at its heart, a tale of devotion and admiration between two inseparable friends.

We are pleased to welcome Gallants co-director Derek Kwok for a post-screening Q&A, chaired by Sarah Perks, Cornerhouse Programme & Engagement Director and Asia Triennial Manchester 11 film curator on Sun 20 Nov. Watch the trailer and buy tickets for the film here.