Fantastic Fest 2010: Gallants
Martial artists Dragon [Chen Kuan-Tai] and Tiger [Leung Siu-Lung] run a local teahouse. They operate it in the absence of their master, Master Law [Teddy Robin], who's been in a coma since a legendary duel some years back. Cheung, a low rung employee of a real estate firm, has been sent to the teahouse which is under pressure from local thugs out to claim its deed. Soon Cheung finds himself aligned with Tiger and Dragon, as something about the old dudes' noble struggle touches him. It could also be the young beautiful woman who has come to visit and help around the teahouse for the summer.
You watch enough action cinema and you begin to create a personal definition of what you like. And what you like is right. And what I like is long takes with minimal camera movements which I believe truly showcase the talents and skills of the actors and the choreographer. If you're editing too much or getting too close to your subjects I think you're hiding something, a lack of talent somewhere. So knowing this what do I think of the action in Gallants which is cut a lot quicker and closer to the subjects? Remarkably everything flows really well. Its how the directors choose and frame each shot. Yes, they break down each movement into a series of separate shots - swing the leg to the lower calf to the impact - but how they frame each separate shot still creates a fluid motion to the eye. If you're going to go edit happy in your action sequences study how the directors do it here.
The story is a bit dodgy. I say that because you think the story is about Cheung at the start of the film, who in essence it is, but his plight takes a back seat to that of Dragon and Tiger until the end of the film. Nevertheless it still manages to entertain, mostly around the performance of Teddy Robin, and the sight of the two elder statesmen of martial arts cinema holding their own against much younger opponents is very awesome.
Any fan of HK action cinema wonders when the next heir apparent will rise to the surface and take over the mantel. And as much as we look to the future of HK cinema it is greatly refreshing to stop for a moment and take a look at the past, at the cornerstones, at the forefathers of this cinematic legacy that helped lay down the foundations for the current ambassadors, whose own time will come when they can pass on the torch.