Director: Da Peng
Cast: Huang Bo, Wang Yibo, Liu Mintao, Song Zuer, Yue Yunpeng, Xiao Shenyang, Zhang Zixian, Casper, Zhang Haiyu, Wang Feifei, Jiang Long
Runtime: 2 hr 4 min
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 24 August 2023
Synopsis: Chen Shuo, who has been performing “commercial street dance” for a living, meets his "life mentor", Ding Lei, and joins the street dance club Exclamation Point. The dancers in the club have different personalities, and it was difficult for Chen Shuo to work with them. Gradually, Chen Shuo managed to integrate into the team. Exclamation Point is facing a disbandment and Chen Shuo encounters more obstacles along the way. The love for dance and support from their teammates enable Chen Shuo and Ding Lei to overcome difficulties and come back stronger. In the end, Chen Shuo and Ding Lei win the highest glory of their own.
Award winning Chinese actor, Huang Bo has played many roles in his career, including Sun Wukong in Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (2013), an engineer who perfected the automatic flag-raising mechanism before the founding ceremony of the People's Republic of China in My People, My Country (2019), as well as a volleyball coach in Leap (2020).
What we did not expect him to portray is a veteran street dancer who is training and inspiring a younger generation of dancers. And a quick check online shows that current vice chairman of China Film Association was a dance instructor before he became an actor, and that explains where he got those eye popping dance moves.
In this comedy drama directed by Da Peng, Huang plays Ding Lei, the owner of a professional dance club who is finding all ways and means to increase exposure and gain recognition for his troupe. He meets Chen Shuo (the very popular Wang Yibo), a teenager who loves street dance and is pursuing his dreams – he is the likeable protagonist from a motivational movie whom you won’t bear to dislike.
Chen Shuo joins the club and meets other dance masters who slowly warm up to him. In an expected plot development, his journey hits obstacles and he has to work extra hard to continue chasing his dreams. Besides a snobbish big shot who may destroy Chen Shuo’s aspirations of dancing in a professional troupe, he also has to deal with family obligations which may deter him from being fully committed to his craft. And thanks to Huang Yibo’s extremely earnest persona, Chen Shuo is a character you’d root for all the way till the end credits roll.
When it comes to dance movies, the Step Up franchise comes to mind. There is also the Magic Mike series if you are in the mood to see Channing Tatum and his mates show off their moves on stage as male strippers. This Chinese production is definitely a notable entry to the genre. A hit in its home country when it was released earlier this year, the movie effortlessly became one of the biggest blockbusters at the summer box office, and it is easy to see why.
The movie carries a wholesome message about working hard for your dreams, and it is unapologetically positive in its storytelling. Chen Shuo is a hardworking young man who takes on less than glamourous projects to earn his keep, while seizing the opportunity to hone his dance skills. Back at home, he has a hardworking mother who is running a restaurant and an uncle suffering from a nervous breakdown. His father died some years back and the close knitted family is holding things together. It’s all very dramatic, but because of the perfect casting of Wang Yibo, you go along with this rather convenient backstory.
Huang Bo is also perfectly cast as a world weary performer who has seen quite a bit of injustice and unfairness in his career. But with the determination to produce a hit, he presses on and gets his troupe to do their best. This culminates in an unforgettable and very captivating finale where we witness a street dance competition where different troupes face off with their impressive moves. This is the highlight of the 124 minute movie, and your eyes will be glued to the screen for the 20 odd minutes where a stunning spectacle unfolds. You will hold your breath as Huang Bo shows off what he is capable of, and Wang Yibo’s final dance move creates a lasting impression.
(Huang Bo and Wang Yibo are perfectly cast in this unapologetically positive movie that features a stunning spectacle in its memorable finale)
Review by John Li