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Issue #174a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES August 25th, 2003

My Schoolmate The Barbarian
(2001; Film Power)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Ngor dik ye maan tung hok
Mandarin: Wo de ye man tong xue
English: My Wild Schoolmate

Anyone familiar with Japanese pop culture knows that high school is a frequent setting for all manner of comedy, horror, science fiction, fantasy, and adult films, along with manga and anime. This Film Power production is a HK entry in the cycle that functions as a considerably milder spin on BATTLE ROYALE (2000), as well as anticipating the far more ambitious and expensive South Korean fantasy VOLCANO HIGH (also 2001). Framed for attempted rape by a former girlfriend, rich, brainy student Edward Chan (Stephen Fung Tak-lun) appears doomed to finish his education at dilapidated Ting Bing Sing Memorial High School, the absolute worst institution in HK. The terminally polite Edward is soon bullied unmercifully by the local bullies, who all but run the school and settle disputes in "The Ring," which consists of 55 desks pushed together. The combatants fight barefoot under the whirling ceiling fans and there is only one rule: "You fall, you lose." Edward ends up hugging the floor after one blow, so he hires former "Fight King" Rock (smoothly played by Nicholas Tse Ting-fung) to be his bodyguard/trainer. Soon close friends, Edward tutors Rock for the big exam but the latter's vow to never fight again is under constant threat from TBS' current ring king, Mantis (HIT TEAM's Samuel Pang King-chi). Edward also has his own problems when a group of triads kidnap him in an attempt to extort HK$100 million from his family.

Co-directed by the ever-prolific Wong Jing and Billy Chung Siu-hung (THE ASSASSIN), this is a minor but moderately entertaining effort, notable mostly for Tony Ching Siu-tung's hard-hitting action choreography. The majority of martial arts battles in HK cinema these days are enhanced with ample doses of CGI. There is some FX trickery present here but the fights are usually quite invigorating, with the stars doing most of their own stunts. On a less noteworthy level, the climactic battle incorporates elements from video games, a concept Wong Jing utilized previously in CITY HUNTER and FUTURE COPS (both 1993) and he has clearly exhausted any and all of the comedic potential from this approach. Unlike some directorial collaborations, the viewer has no trouble discerning that Chung is responsible for the movie's darker material (comedy does dominate the picture and no one actually dies but some of the violence here is quite intense and bloody), while Wong handled the rest and is presumably responsible for popstar Joey Yung Tso-yi's outlandish, anime-inspired performance as a classmate obsessed with Edward. Wong also works in some of his customary topical humor, via parodies of WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? and THE WEAKEST LINK, both of which were hot in HK at the time.

Cover art courtesy Tai Seng.

Nicholas Tse (left) and Stephen Fung. Image courtesy Tai Seng.

Nicholas Tse. Image courtesy Tai Seng.
Tai Seng #03974 (U.S. Label)

Sync Sound Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS) and Dubbed Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0) Language Tracks

Optional English Subtitles

15 Chapters -- Not Illustrated

Letterboxed (1.68:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

Macrovision Encoded

NTSC Format

93 Minutes

Contains moderate violence and coarse language

DVD menu courtesy Tai Seng.

Hong Kong: IIB
Ontario: AA
Singapore: PG

There are plenty of speckles and some dirt notable in the opening minutes but the picture improves after that. Colors are robust but contrasts are a bit weak and the image tends to be grainy during brightly lit sequences. The Cantonese track is offered in a somewhat dynamic rendering (both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS) and, while this would normally be the language to choose for viewing, it is a half second out-of-sync throughout; the Mandarin dubtrack offers a less distracting presentation. Ric Meyers and Frank Djeng discuss the film on a fairly informative commentary track that concentrates on the background of the performers, with a good amount of time devoted to the widely reported legal problems experienced recently by Tse and Yung. Meyers' usual digressions are present but all of the websites he has borrowed material from get their proper due here. The original HK trailer and an American video promo spot are included, along with promos for DRAGON INN and THE DUEL. There is a smoothly executed layer change at 53:43.

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