One Second Champion
一秒拳王 (Yat Miu Kuen Wong)
Hong Kong, 2020, 97’, Cantonese, Mandarin, English
Directed by: Chiu Sin-hang
Script: Ashley Cheung, Li Ho-tin, Ho Siu-hong, Ling Wai-chun
Original Story: Chiu Sin-hang
Photography (color): Oliver Lau
Editing: Manto Tang
Art Direction: Ceci Fok
Music: Harry Ng
Producer: Mani Man
Production Company: mm2 Studios Hong Kong Limited
Cast: Endy Chow (Chow Tin-yan), Chiu Sin-hang (Yip Chi-shun), Lin Minchen (Yiu), Hung Cheuk-lok (Chow Chi-leung), Chanon Santinatornkul (Joe), Justin Cheung (Sung Ngo-yeung), Lo Hoi-pang (bar manager), Ben Yuen (Joe’s manager), Wong You-nam (Chow Tin-yan’s father), BabyJohn Choi (street cleaner)
Date of First Release in Territory: November 22nd, 2020 (HKAFF); March 11th, 2021
When you’re planning to make a fresh entry in Hong Kong’s famously long line of fight films, it helps to have a great gimmick. Fortunately, that’s just what’s on offer in the tale of boxer Chow Tin-yan in One Second Champion.
When Chow was born, he died for a second and then recovered with a supernatural talent: the ability to see one second into the future. By childhood he was feted on TV as a boy wonder, but when viewers meet him as an adult (played by Endy Chow) he’s a worn-out waiter tired of his special skill. After all, he asks, what good is just one second anyway?
Boxing school head Yip Chi-shun (Chiu Sin-hang) thinks he knows the answer once he walks into a barroom brawl and sees Chow put the one-second foresight to use in battle. Chow has gambling debts to pay off and is seeking funds to help his hearing-impaired son, and Yip is willing to pay for Chow to become his training partner and help raise the profile of his old-fashioned Ying Ngai boxing school. Later on, when it’s clear Yip can’t hold himself together through a boxing match, Chow steps up for full-on training to not just succeed in the ring but impress his son as well.
While his unique skill offers an advantage, Chow doesn’t rely on it alone. Soon his training becomes intense, ensuring that his reflexes and stamina can at least be on par with those of the formidable opponents in store for him. And among those he’s set to face is the fearsome fighter Joe (Thai actor Chanon Santinatornkul), a veritable killer in the ring.
Filmmaker Chiu Sin-hang showed ample promise in 2017 when his delightful co-directing effort Vampire Cleanup Department hit cinemas, and this time around his work continues to impress. Making his debut as sole director, Chiu once more melds local heritage with unconventional storytelling, while also putting himself through a physically demanding onscreen performance. (He and his band ToNick contribute in the music department too.) As a boxing movie, One Second Champion makes all the right moves in its story of a scraggy underdog pushing himself hard. Training scenes are handled well, and the action choreography is clear and involving. And with its parenting angle, Chiu’s picture offers fine family drama as Chow steps up to become a better dad.
Singer and actor Endy Chow puts in a fine performance in the leading role as his character shifts from no-hoper to someone his kid can look up to. And Chiu, as his coach and training partner, likewise breaks through with a prominent and agile showing. Child actor Hung Cheuk-lok, playing Chow’s son, is terrific in his key role, and Malaysian actress Lin Minchen rounds out the leads with a cheery part as Yip’s yoga-teaching cousin.
One Second Champion arrived in Hong Kong cinemas earlier this year after theatre closures delayed its release, and it promptly scored well at the box office with its plucky drama, rousing action and buoyant messaging. While the central gimmick offered a fun take on otherworldly skill, Chiu and his writing team suggest that special powers can exist in anyone – from a hearing-impaired kid’s ability to lip read or tune out a nagging parent to people holding steadfast with a never-give-up attitude. Given all the stresses cinemagoers have been facing of late, One Second Champion’s burst of positivity offers some much needed relief.
Chiu Sin-hang, a graduate of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, directed and acted in online microfilms, produced a YouTube reality show and took up feature film scriptwriting before serving as a co-director, writer and composer for the 2017 movie Vampire Cleanup Department. One Second Champion is his solo directing debut.
2017 – Vampire Cleanup Department (co-director)
2020 – One Second Champion