(Original Publication Date: May 7th, 2019) By: John M Jerva
REVIEW: BIG BROTHER
STARRING: Donnie Yen, Joe Chen, Jack Lok, and Yu Kang
DIRECTED BY: Kam Ka Wai
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Martial arts legend Donnie Yen stars as a former soldier recruited for his toughest mission yet – teaching a class of teen delinquents. As he kicks his way into their school and home lives, it becomes clear that his unconventional teaching style might be just what they need.
THE REVIEW: Donnie Yen is one of those international action stars that can pretty much do no wrong in my book. Yen has starred in some of the genre’s most recognizable action films such as SPL and FLASHPOINT and at the age of 56, he looks better than ever. I have a tendency to even enjoy some of his most infamous films too such ICEMAN: THE TIME TRAVELER and while that film was far from perfect, and I mean far, I still recommend it for fans of Yen.
Donnie tries his hand at something different this time around with the action drama BIG BROTHER which is more of an inspirational high school drama rather than one of his usual adrenaline packed entries. BIG BROTHER has Yen starring as a former soldier who is now a teacher and probably the one teacher that can save both a failing school and its students from a bleak future. Make no mistake, this one plays more for the DEAD POETS SOCIETY crowd but don’t worry, Yen still cuts loose in a few scenes of bone jarring action.
The basic plot of BIG BROTHER has a school that is in decline and in danger of being shut down as lack of money and lack of student pride is at an all time low. The students have essentially lost their way and things are getting a lot worse for the wear. Enter Yen, who plays an ex-soldier who has seen a lot of bad things on the battlefield but has now chosen a new war to fight which is the war for a brighter future for our youth. With things looking bleak, the head of the school played by Dominic Lam Ka-Wah decides to take a chance in Henry Chen (Yen) an unorthodox teacher who is looking to make an extreme difference in his students’ lives but he has his work cut out for him as these students are anything but motivated.
Chen rolls his sleeves up and puts his head down and eventually, things begin to change for the better and he starts to get through to his students. Chen even takes an interest in his students’ lives outside of school and proceeds to do what he can to right certain wrongs.Unfortunately, some very shady land developers want the property the school is on and want to see it continue to fail so they can swoop in and take it out from under everyone. To aid in this, the land grabbers send an assortment of brutes to stir up trouble and see that the school fails but they run into a heavy hitting one man gauntlet in Yen’s Henry Chen. This is where the heavy hitting commences.
In terms of inspirational school dramas, we have had many in the past such as DANGEROUS MINDS, the afore mentioned DEAD POETS SOCIETY and so on and here with BIG BROTHER, the film really doesn’t bring anything new to the table but that is OK because it is still enjoyable and the main reason why is Mr. Yen once again. Yen has that certain star power that can elevate anything a few notches and he is just an awesome presence on screen. The rest of the cast is admirable and even though I would have liked a little more development with some of them especially the students, it still works a both a school drama and an action film.
Some of Yen’s fans might be left wanting more when they find out that the film is not a full blown action spectacle but the dramatic points stick where they need to and director Kam Ka Wai keeps things moving along and generates the much needed sap for the inspirational portions of the film. I commend both Yen and Wai for making the film and delivering Yen in a different light that we are accustomed to. Yen always plays harder edged characters such as cops and here it is nice to see him portray a motivated and sincere character.
Make no mistake, in terms of action, BIG BROTHER serves up two scenes to satisfy the crowd and Yen is in top form and gets ample opportunity to showcase his talents and show the world that even though he is in his 50’s, he can still go toe to toe with anyone. Yen even gets to mess it up with some real life fighters in the process. The two sequences are certainly the selling point and highlight of the film the ending alone is top tier and can give Yen’s finale in FLASHPOINT a run for its money. In it, Yen gets to throwdown with a bevy of behemoths and gets to use the school’s surroundings to his advantage. While it isn’t some of Yen’s more acclaimed hard R rated stuff it still packs quite the punch and kick and I was sure satisfied with what I got.
All in all, BIG BROTHER may have its share of cliches and issues but it is Yen again that saves the day and makes it all worth while. While not a full fledged Donnie Yen action flick, the star still doesn’t disappoint and gives the fan service where it is needed. Some might be turned off by the film’s overly sympathetic content but for the rest of us, it is just a nice diversion from some of the more brutal action fare that comes along. BIG BROTHER combines the best of both worlds and Yen answers the call like he has so many times in te past.
VERDICT: 3.5 Out of 5 Stars and Action-Flix Approved
BIG BROTHER is Now On VOD and Digital and will Hit Blu-Ray and DVD on May 21st from Well Go USA!