Big Brother 2018 Review: Donnie Yen, one of the greatest performers in Hong Kong film industry

Big Brother may not be as action-packed as fans would like but it’s surprisingly moving and well acted with Donnie Yen giving one of his best performances to date.

In a career that has spanned 35 years and over 75 films and television series. Donnie Yen has become one of the greatest and most acclaimed actors working in action films today. He’s predominantly known for his martial arts work in Hong Kong. In recent years he’s trekked to Hollywood to co-star in Rogue One and XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. Over the past decade, he’s cemented his legacy playing Ip Man. The real ife martial artist responsible for training a very young Bruce Lee.

Henry Chen (Donnie Yen or Chung Tu Don) is an ex-soldier who has left the military in order to become a high school teacher. He’s given a class full of under-privileged and troubled students to whip into shape for standardized testing. Chen’s methods are a bit unorthodox, but he seems to be making strides with the kids. A greedy entrepreneur wants to level the school and the government is ready to shut it down and give up. The only thing that matters to Henry is inspiring the kids to be the best they can be, and he won’t let anything stand in the way of their success.

Donnie Yen is, without question, one of the greatest performers to ever emerge from the Hong Kong film industry.

He spent many years in the shadows of actors like Jackie Chan and Jet Li only to explode into his own with lead roles in films like Iron Monkey or the aforementioned Ip Man. Having mostly only done martial arts flicks, he really had the opportunity to flex his acting muscles in the 2017 crime,drama Chasing the Dragon.

In Big Brother (Dai Su Huynh), he has the opportunity to do it again and he’s so sincere in his performance that no matter how cheesy portions of the movie may be, you buy into every moment of it. The story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before (think Stand and Deliver) but it’s told in a culturally different way that’s just as relevant in the States as it is in other parts of the world. The pressures children face when it comes to school. And education is brutal and can destroyed the youth of many kids. The character Yen plays is inspiring and the relationships he builds with his students is the heartbeat of the film.

Big Brother is still a Donnie Yen film (phim hanh dong vo thuat). And it wouldn’t be complete without action. In fact, there are two intense action scenes that highlight just how amazing he is as a fighter. The scenes are brutal, intense, with lightning quick choreography, everything you would expect from one of the greats. At fifty-five years old, he hasn’t missed a step and is still one of Asia’s most relevant stars.

Big Brother can be quite silly at times but overall. The message is what’s important and with Yen delivering it with as much heart as he can muster. It makes every moment you spend with this film all worthwhile. Directed by Ka-Wai Kam.

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