Its 5:49 pm
I have been a fan of Donnie Yen’s ever since I saw him in “Iron Monkey” back at a midnight show in San Jose. That movie was fast and furious and Yen commanded the screen and his martial art skills were very impressive.
After “Iron Monkey” came out here in America,I read that Donnie Yen was getting a part in a Marvel superhero movie,”Blade II” with Wesley Snipes and Ron Perlman. Going in the theater to see the film,I had Donnie Yen having a huge part because he was a martial artist and Wesley Snipes is also pretty good,would the big fight be between these two? I didn’t know but I had high hopes,right?
But because Donnie’s English wasn’t very strong then,he didn’t have a huge part,he didn’t have a fight scene with Wesley,hell,he didn’t have any spoken lines. His character was named Snowman and he was mute. Alright,I could live with mute but when his character was the second to die (and no fight scenes??) I felt bad for Yen because he was really better then Snipes and Luke Goss (who played the main villain).
His second American role came in the Jackie Chan-Owen Wilson buddy comedy “Shanghai Knights” where he played the bad guy. And that was it as for trying to break Donnie Yen in America and thank heaven for that!! Because Yen returned to Hong Kong and made some classic and amazing films and became a huge international star.
It was because of Donnie Yen that I found Jing Wu (Wolf Warrior) as these two had one of the most brutal and famous fight scenes in Hong Kong cinema history in “SPD: Kill Zone”,a movie that any real martial arts film fan has to have. “Kill Zone” is just one of the many incredible films Yen has starred in.
But Donnie Yen is now 56 and just as Jackie Chan and Summo Hung before him,he has slowed down in terms of sheer balls to wall action pieces,now Yen has focused on more character pieces with flashes of his younger self. This is evident is “Big Brother”. In “Big Brother” Yen plays Henry Chan,a teacher with a bit of a mysterious past. He is given the most troublesome class with the hardest students.
He uses several different methods to reach these students,who are shown to have some very tough backgrounds. Two brothers dealing with an alcoholic father,a Pakistani boy who despite loving the Chinese culture is mocked as a immigrant,a young woman whose father ignores her in favor of her little brother and a young man who lives with his grandma after his mother abandons them.
Henry decides to take on each student and tries to help improve their lives by studying for a huge exam. The school itself is under pressure to improve graduation rates or else their funding will be cut and that could lead the school being closed.
First Henry tackles the two boys with the alcoholic father,Henry helps place the father in a treatment center and the father apologizes to his sons in front of their friends. The two sons are grateful and start to study harder.
Henry discovers the Pakistani boy has a great singing voice that he has been hiding and encourages him by taking to a outdoor stage and singing. The student gets encouraged and starts to show off his voice.
Henry then brings the father and daughter together by showing the father that his daughter is a very skilled driver and who dreams of becoming a race driver,after a great racing set piece,the father starts to realize just how special his daughter really is.
The last boy has dropped out of school to help his grandma and ends up working for a shady fight promotor is fixing fights. When the young man is caught trying to tamper with a fighter’s drink under the promotor’s order,he is beat up and put into a locker.
It is when Henry goes and rescues him that it becomes clear that Henry Chan is no mere teacher as he faces off a locker room of MMA fighters….
But Henry has his own secrets and demons and in helping these young kids,he hopes he can fix some of own mistakes not realizing some mistakes have lefts deep scars on an most unlikely source.
I really liked “Big Brother” quite a bit,it has a huge heart and while it may come across as a bit preachy,its a message that we can stand to hear. Because high pressure,being bullied for “not belonging” or being poor isn’t solely an “American” problem,its a problem seen all over the world in various stages.
When a student fails a pre-exam test,the pressure causes almost results in tragedy and while everyone wants to blame a teacher,its shown that student suicide is a society problem in Hong Kong and that society has to do better by its children. This is not a martial arts film,its a story of kids who are need help and guidence and just happens to have a couple fight scenes in the film.
The two fight scenes are very good and while Yen is still very much a kick ass fighter,he allows his age to show by allowing his Henry to get shown being hurt. He is no longer a “superman” who shrugs off blows. The main fight is both brutal and very sad but you’ll have to watch and find out why. Oh don’t worry,”Big Brother” is very Hollywood in its ending and for a Hong Kong film,that isn’t a bad thing….
Now there is something I will say,Well Go USA,which released “Big Brother” needed to put in a dubbed version here. The film is in Cantonese and is subtitled. But knowing you are marketing the movie in America where Donnie Yen has a huge fan base and where his Henry is shown speaking English and also having having a soundtrack with English music,why not provide a English dubbed version?
I hope this is something that Well-Go USA will address in future releases. It just makes the movie a little eaiser to follow.
“Big Brother” is 1 hr 42 minutes long,should be rated PG-13 and has no special features.
This is a solid entertainment for Yen fans and Hong Kong cinema alike. You can get a copy of of this film by going to the Well-Go USA website here.
The cheetah and I gave “Big Brother” a thumb/paw straight up.
Which Donnie Yen film is your favorite? Leave a comment below and share it with us.
I know his “Ip Man” series is very popular.