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Review: "The King of the Streets"

2013-01-10 14:55:36        Chinese Films

A still of the movie.

Story

Northern China, the present day. After accidentally killing an opponent at the age of 16, and serving eight years in prison for manslaughter, street fighter-cum-martial artist Yue Feng (Yue Song) is released and finally gets a job with a removals firm. Hearing that the grandmother (Liu Ming) of the man he killed is an impoverished street hawker, he anonymously buys food from her stall to help her. While doing a removal job for a privately run orphanage, he finds one of the staff is Yi (Becki Li), whom he'd previously helped when she was mugged in a backstreet.

As he was also an orphan, Yue Feng starts helping her out in his spare time, and learns the orphanage head, Zhou (Wang Zaihe), is under pressure to sell the land at an unfair price to a ruthless businessman, Li Shao (Yang Junping), for a resort development. Yue Feng finally tracks down his boyhood friend, Hai (Hou Xu), who is now working as an underworld fighter for hire. He invites Yue Feng to join him but the latter refuses.

After Yue Feng fights off all the heavies who come to threaten Zhou, Li Shao agrees to settle the dispute with a fight between one of his own men and Yue Feng. On the day, however, Li Shao breaks the rules by fielding several opponents, including Yue Feng's best friend, Hai.

Review

From its main titles, with stop-frame action, to its barebones plot, with a martial artist defending a children's orphanage from an evil developer, there's an old-style Hong Kong flavour to Mainland lowbudgeter The King of the Streets. A vanity first feature by 27-year-old Shandong martial artist YUE Song , who produced, co-directed, wrote, choreographed and co-edited, it's the kind of movie that Bruce LEE(one of Yue's idols) could have made 40 years ago, with a strong moral subtext, a flawed hero, a winsome heroine (Becki LI in the Nora MIAOrole) and lots of fighting in warehouses and bare rooms.

In her first leading role, Li (who's wrongly credited on posters as) is okay but doesn't get much to do apart from looking cute and having one brief action scene. Yue himself shows no special screen charisma and needs an experienced action director to hone the raw talent shown in his demo footage. But the fight sequences — which come thick and fast in the second half and are basic, street-style martial arts, without wire-work — are fully equal to a run-of-the-mill Hong Kong action movie in their staging, cutting and performances, and littered with Yue's pals from the fight world, such as boxers HOU Xu and KANG En, and MMA fighter YANG Jianping. Co-d.p. LIU Zhangmu (Insistence) gets a prominent credit for "artistic planning" and brings a cool, wintry look to the visuals.

King isn't such a big step forward, as an action showcase, from Yue's 39-minute internet short, The Mars Affair (2009), also made with Chang Long Stunt Team, but as a nostalgic retro exercise it's good video fodder. One of the producers is Mainland film-maker Patrick KONG Lingchen, who directed China's first parkour movie, City Monkey (2010).

Source: Film Business Asia

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