t.l. Inseguendo il sogno
我的拳王男友 (Ngoh Dik Kyuhn Wohng Naahm Yauh)
Hong Kong, China, 2019, 119’, Cantonese
Directed by: Johnnie To
Script: Wai Ka-fai, Ryker Chan, Mak Tin-shu, Angus Chan
Photography (color): Cheng Siu-keung
Editing: David Richardson
Art Direction: Cat Leung
Music: Peter Kam
Producers: Johnnie To, Wa Ka-fai, Elaine Chu
Cast: Jacky Heung (Tiger), Keru Wang (Cuckoo Du), Shao Bing (Ma Qing), Bin Zi (Gao Qiang), Ma Xiaohui (Qu Fengfeng), Kelly Yu (Hai Zhu), Emotion Cheung (Lu Di)
Date of First Release in Territory: December 9th, 2019
Premiere status: International Premiere
Twists of fate, second comings, fierce battles and entertainment-scene satire all pile up in Chasing Dream, a novel music and martial arts mashup from director Johnnie To. With the celebrated helmer once again collaborating with co-producer and screenwriter Wai Ka-fai, the upbeat picture delivers a fun throwback to the crazed energy of the pair’s best pop productions of the early 2000s, only this time with the story set entirely in mainland Chinese surrounds.
Jacky Heung stars as Tiger, a mixed martial arts fighter from humble origins who’s now making a name for himself in the big league. When he chances across troubled ring girl Cuckoo Du (Keru Wang), and also gets a strong warning from a doctor to end his competition career, he comes to support her quest for pop stardom. Du, it turns out, has heavy debts to pay to Tiger’s gangster-like coach. And she has been wronged by megastar Qu Fengfeng (Ma Xiaohui), the so-called “King of Originality” who ripped off her songs and dumped her. Together the pair charge from one audition to another to get Du a spot in the high-profile Perfect Diva talent quest and a chance to put her music ambitions back on track.
Clearly action buffs enticed by Chasing Dream’s mixed martial arts angle shouldn’t expect a wall-to-wall fightfest. Instead, the film keys in heavily with the mainland trend for televised singing competitions and ups the appeal with extra musical sequences too. Scenes of the hotpot-loving Tiger preparing meals are paired with lively song-and-dance training sequences, and late in the piece there’s an extraordinary dance fantasy that brings in almost every principal character. That scene, like other several others on city streets, makes use of an immense studio set constructed in a marvellous show of filmmaking craft and complements the artifice that lies within the movie’s entertainment-industry angle.
Johnnie To also takes the reins as action director to deliver strong moments with Tiger battling in the ring and jousting with his old master (Shao Bing). Needless to say, Tiger’s early moves to ditch the sport prove futile, and the stage is set for a major showdown against a fearsome opponent. That development, and a big twist in Cuckoo Du’s messy career path, offer keen viewers of works by To and Wai Ka-fai yet another unconventional exploration of fate and second runs. Pitched in too is a certain darkness coursing below the pop sheen – witness the injurious plight of one Perfect Idol entrant, as well as Tiger going much too far in his lust – that can result in huge shifts in tone along the way.
Lead actor Jacky Heung looks the part for Chasing Dream’s wilder side: from the get-go he bounces around in a high-strung and intensely physical performance and barks out his lines. Keru Wang also offers an amped-up showing as Cuckoo Du, veering capably through comedy, melodrama and frequent musical numbers. Their often exaggerated performances may be a far cry from those found in the thrillers To is better known for internationally. Yet for those seeking an energetic reboot of his more entertaining collaborations with Wai Ka-fai, Chasing Dream offers a welcome diversion with its quirky tale.
Writer-director and producer To directed his first movie, The Enigmatic Case, in 1980 and his filmography since then has included many critical and box-office successes. In 1996, To co-founded production company Milkyway Image, working closely with writer-director Wai Ka-fai. The company drew attention for its thrillers such as A Hero Never Dies (1998) and The Mission (1999) before starting a run of commercially successful films with the release of To and Wai’s 2000 box-office champ Needing You... To has since gone on to find wider international recognition for movies including PTU (2003), Election (2005) and Exiled (2007).
1980 – The Enigmatic Case
1998 – A Hero Never Dies
1999 – The Mission
2000 – Needing You... (co-director)
2004 – Throwdown
2005 – Election
2006 – Exiled
2012 – Romancing in Thin Air
2016 – Three
2019 – Chasing Dream