Donnie Yen is Big Brother!

20 May

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Release Date: May 21, 2019
Well Go USA Entertainment

  • Spoiler Alert

Donnie Yen is more than an action hero, he’s a role model more than ever not only to his fans but also to those he’s trying to inspire in Big Brother (大師兄). He plays Henry Chen, a well-meaning ex-soldier turned teacher who believes in second chances. He shows life is not necessarily over to those kids who feel like they have been cast aside. The class he is assigned to handle are all considered delinquents and the problems they have are not necessarily their fault.

While viewers do not understand why Chen is trying to play hero, the story unfolds quickly enough to elevate this character to a superstar. Not even the kids he’s supposed to teach get it. Alice Cooper can sing the praises of school’s out forever, but a lingering question should be asked: what kind of impact does middle school make to anyone who is unsure in what to do next after graduation?

Twin brothers Bruce and Chris (Bruce Tong Kwan-chi and Chris Tong Kwan-yiu) have a few ideas, but of the two, one has ADHD (he struggles with making the grades) and the other is a videogame whiz. Tomboy Gladys (Gladys Li Ching-kwan) yearns to be a race-car driver and faces discrimination because of her gender. Gordon (Gordon Lau Chiu-kin) just wants to sing. Ne’er-do-well Jack (Luo Mingjie) falls in with a bad crowd and his situation forms the backbone for the movie.

When Henry identifies them as the ones needing the most help, the film takes off. His unorthodox teaching techniques get their attention and eventually, they find his compassion keeps them going. Yeh rarely ventures into this territory as an actor, and it’s a rare look at what else he can do. He’s better known for his martial arts action films, namely the Ip Man franchise, which sees him more of a fighter than a humanitarian.

Image result for big brother donnie yen

The tale is nothing new. I’ve seen it before in Dead Poets Society and Greatest American Hero. When executed right, this genre is not a tired formula. To toss in martial arts into the mix was a bonus.

As a movie which simply says never give up on your dreams, the happy ending is perfect. While an attempt exists to make a stab at how the current scholastic system works in China, no reform is likely to happen. Instead, we have a product that says never give up on your dreams. When the youths here have a Henry Chen to be their guardian angel, that’s all the help they need.

4 Stars out of 5

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