Notable Cast: Donnie Yen, Joe Chen, Jack Lok, Yu Kang, Bruce Tong, Chis Tong, Gladys Li, Lau Chiu-Kin, Dominic Lam, Alfred Cheung, Wu Fung, Felix Lok, Benjamin Au-Yeung, Billy Lau, Lee Fung, Koo Tin-Lung
Donnie Yen is a huge star. Large portions of the world have no idea, which is a shame, but he really is one of the hardest working and busiest actors out there. Because of his insanely busy schedule, he has his pick of a variety of projects and it was a bit surprising that Big Brother was one of the films he chose to focus on. A family friendly drama/comedy/action film? Of all of his options, he chose this one. Now that the film is out, both in the US and China, it does make sense why he did. For all of the kinds of films he has done, dramas, comedies, action, he has yet to really make a film like this and that variety can be appealing. His fans, however, may not be as welcoming to the film since it does have a largely different tone than the rest of what gets a US release. The film takes a decidedly family friendly tone with its material, focusing on a handful of kids in a struggling school more than anything, and it doubles down on the ‘you can do it!’ catch phrase that Donnie Yen’s character repeatedly says with a huge smile on his face and a self-reassuring fist pump. As much as the film plays things in very predictable ways, it’s hard not to enjoy its charms on some sort of level. Big Brother is shockingly fun and if I was a kid, I would have been obsessed with this film.
|From Ip Man to Henry Chen, Yen likes being a teacher.
The trick of Big Brother is that, while Donnie Yen’s miracle worker is certainly the protagonist that drives the narrative, the film takes the time and effort to try and define a handful of students for him to help. Naturally, the film does not have nearly enough time to flesh most of them out in ways that are truly as dramatic as it pretends they are, but at least it tries and that does say something. Each of the students has their own ‘challenge’ before them, whether its an alcoholic parent, gender pressures, the color of their skin, or mobsters (we’ll get to that last one here in a second,) and through the power of the all mighty Donnie Yen, these kids will find their way. The family friendly approach means that even though it touches on a lot of sensitive subjects, it never actually explores them and just glazes over them in an After School Special manner. Most of the problems that arise from the exploration of these characters and their events comes from the lacking time to develop any intricacies with them and how strangely easy they are solved. Truly, Donnie works miracles and after one conversation, a life time alcoholic will change his life or an overbearing father will throw away his preconceptions of what he wants his daughter to be in life. It’s almost embarrassingly simple in a lot of ways and it flaunts the easily consumable nature of being a family friendly film most blatantly in this regard.
|...but can they be taught?
|Vroom, vroom, vroom.