Drummer” is an original and stylistic cinematic feast
of sight and sound. It is the first feature film to combine
an engaging character-driven story with dramatic action and
the stunning art of Chinese zen drumming.
and emotional story follows Sid, a reckless youth raised in
a Hong Kong triad family, who flees to Taiwan upon enraging
a mob boss. Hiding out in the mountains of Taiwan, he encounters
and joins a group of zen drummers whose mesmerizing art, rigorous
physical training, and austere way of life eventually transform
him into an extraordinary young man.
independence from the triad life is profoundly challenged,
however, when a twist of fate awaits him back home in Hong
Kong and forces him to choose between loyalty to his family
and his new found faith in himself. . .
With something as serious as film offering “The Drummer”,
it can be a pity finding it sometimes hard to concentrate
at the beginning knowing that the son of one of the most famous
thespians of our generation is playing the titular character.
Here, Jaycee Chan, son of Jackie, puts on a brave attempt
to come out from under his father’s shadow – however,
local audiences familiar with Jackie’s goofball antics
and rubber faces may get distracted trying to look for similarities
between the two.
did this particular reviewer sidetrack a little? The answer’s
yes, of course – and the verdict? Identical facial features
aside (there’s no mistaking the father-son connection
with nasal orifices of that size), Jaycee couldn’t be
further apart from his expressions than his father. While
we all know and love the latter’s exaggerated and comic
expressions, the former proves slightly disconcerting with
his slightly aloof, if a little bland, method of acting –
which feels pretty much like a younger Jackie trying to act
plays the narrator Sid, who when the film opens finds himself
in the slightly sticky situation of getting caught in the
bath with Stephen Ma, a mafia head’s wife (Cheng Hei
Yi). Instead of groveling like a dog, Sid insteads opts to
further insult Stephen in front of his men (an action not
particularly recommended under any circumstances), leading
to Stephen demanding both of Sid’s hands on a platter
from Sid’s father, Kwan (Tony Leung Kar Fai). Daddy
plays good guy and ships Sid off to Taiwan, under the watchful
eye of deputy gang leader Chiu (Roy Cheung).
out of his wits in a rural Taiwanese village, Sid stumbles
across a reclusive community of Zen drummers who also count
practicing tai chi and martial arts as their daily pastimes.
As cable TV is understandably hard to come by at the moment,
Sid asks to join them and is grudgingly accepted.
though this is usually the spiritual turnpoint in most such
movies, we see no such thing happening here. Jaycee really
needs to find his feet before he can consider himself a thespian,
as his rather one-dimensional caricature of a stock n’er
do well may be better played by genuine badasses like Nicholas
Tse or Shawn Yue with ten times more finesse. Angelica Lee
plays Hong Dou, the quintessential O.S.A. (“Object of
Sexual Attraction”), which Sid spends most of his time
panting after but as this is just not that kind of movie,
his advances are repelled with coquettish ease.
the entire film is gorgeously shot, with detailed lensing
that makes the most of the rural landscapes, there has to
be some sort of unwritten rule on the “fadeout”
phenomena which the producers seemed more than happy to employ
as a sort of device to keep the plot running. The lushly somber,
cello-dominated score also helps to add a spiritual element
to the screen, which combined with the supposed mystical properties
of traditional drumming techniques to produce an aesthetically-pleasing
near-masterpiece. However, five minutes after stepping out
of the cinema, I was hard-pressed to recall three prominent
scenes in my head – it’s just that kind of movie.