×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Drummer

A young Hong Kong rebel finds inner peace and a sense of purpose in "The Drummer."

With:
With: Jaycee Chan, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Lee Sinje, Roy Cheung, Josie Ho, Liu Ruo-yu, Kenneth Tsang, Cheng Hei-yi, Huang Chih-chun, Eugenia Yuan, Ken Lo, Glen Chin, performers of U Theater. (Mandarin, Cantonese dialogue)

A young Hong Kong rebel finds inner peace and a sense of purpose with a group of Zen musicians in the hills of Taiwan in “The Drummer,” an entertaining blend of genre elements and spiritual content that plays much better than it sounds on paper. Touted as the first serious dramatic perf by Jaycee (son of Jackie) Chan, pic is strongly cast down the line and reps an enjoyable sophomore outing by Hong Kong writer-director Kenneth Bi after his uneven Singapore-set “Rice Rhapsody.” In Asia, pic could have respectable legs, while in Europe niche distribs could drum up modest biz.

Early on, scenes of traditional Taiwan troupe U Theater tap something very basic in the human psyche, the beat-beat-beat of the drums mimicking the heartbeat of a baby in the womb. More immediately, however, v.o. narrator Sid (Chan) is shown to have more urgent problems, when he’s caught in the bath with the wife (Cheng Hei-yi) of powerful triad boss Stephen Ma (vet Kenneth Tsang).

Cocky Sid insults Ma in front of the latter’s men, leading Ma to demand both of Sid’s hands on a platter from Sid’s father, Kwan (Tony Leung Ka-fai), who runs a rival gang but owes Ma a favor. Kwan tracks down Sid and dispatches him for safety to Taiwan, in the company of deputy gang leader Chiu (Roy Cheung).

Third reel finds bored Sid and ever-watchful Chiu in a Taiwanese village, above which Sid one day finds a reclusive community of Zen drummers who also practice tai chi and martial arts. Mesmerized by their open-air exercises, Sid asks to join — and is tentatively accepted. He’s equally mesmerized by their most junior member, Hong Dou (Lee Sinje, aka Angelica Lee, from “The Eye”), but she coquettishly snubs him.

Bi injects a fair measure of light comedy, leavening the gangster material and also making Sid a likeable ne’er-do-well. Latter’s inauguration into the live-rough community is handled with charm and humor, and tight editing (with copious fadeouts) keeps things moving along. By never taking itself too seriously, pic manages to stir a spiritual element — the mystical properties of traditional drumming — into what is basically a genre movie.

As the female troupe leader, Liu Ruo-yu is especially good, giving shallow urbanite Sid endless physical tasks to deflect his testosterone from the hotsy Hong Dou (genially played by looker Lee).

Bi manages to disguise Chan’s lack of acting smarts by clever cutting and use of reliable vets like Leung and Tsang, the former bringing a touch of tenderness to yet another of his patented mobster roles.

Aside from Sam Koa’s attractive lensing of the rural Taiwan locations, German composer Andre Matthias’ chamber-like score is also a powerful assist, with mournful cello solos and subtle string writing adding genuine emotion to the final reels. Sequences of U Theater performing, either in the wild or on stage, have a real physical charge, with pro thesps blending in easily. Pic’s Chinese title literally means “War, Drums.”

The Drummer

Hong Kong-Taiwan-Germany

Production: An Emperor Classic Films Co. presentation of a Kenbiroli Films (Hong Kong)/Arc Light Films (Taiwan)/Twenty Twenty Vision (Germany) production. (International sales: the Match Factory, Cologne.) Produced by Rosa Li, Peggy Chiao, Thanassis Karathanos. Executive producers, Albert Yeung, William Fu, Rosa Li, Albert Lee. Directed, written by Kenneth Bi.

Crew: Camera (color), Sam Koa; editors, Isabel Meier, Bi; music, Andre Matthias; art director, Alex Mok; costume designer, Cindy Cheung; sound (Dolby SRD), Tu Duu-chih. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande), Aug. 8, 2007. Running time: 119 MIN.

With: With: Jaycee Chan, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Lee Sinje, Roy Cheung, Josie Ho, Liu Ruo-yu, Kenneth Tsang, Cheng Hei-yi, Huang Chih-chun, Eugenia Yuan, Ken Lo, Glen Chin, performers of U Theater. (Mandarin, Cantonese dialogue)

More Film

  • Sean Penn

    Sean Penn to Direct, Star in 'Flag Day' With Daughter Dylan Penn

    Sean Penn is set to direct and star in the conman drama “Flag Day” alongside his daughter Dylan Penn, his son Hopper Penn, Josh Brolin and Miles Teller. The cast includes two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz (“Fosse/Verdon”), Dale Dickey, Eddie Marsan, Bailey Noble, and Katheryn Winnick (“Vikings”). Jez Butterworth (“Edge of Tomorrow”) wrote [...]

  • China Film Group chairman La Peikang

    Shanghai: China Film Group Announces 28 Title Lineup

    China Film Group announced a line-up of 28 films at a large event on the sidelines of the Shanghai International Film Festival that feted both the mainland’s main distributor and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. “Nearly a thousand film industry people wished the motherland a beautiful and happy [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    Disney Re-Releasing 'Avengers: Endgame' in Effort to Beat 'Avatar' Box Office Record

    If “Avengers: Endgame” doesn’t beat “Avatar’s” all-time box office record, it won’t be for lack of trying. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told numerous publications that “Avengers: Endgame” will be re-released in theaters with extended footage that didn’t make it into the initial film, which already clocks in at a butt-numbing three hours and one [...]

  • Soul Pixar

    Disney Unveils Pixar Movie 'Soul' With 2020 Summer Release Date

    Disney has unveiled “Soul” as an upcoming original Pixar film, which will debut on June 19, 2020. “Soul” will be the second original Pixar film next year after “Onward,” which opens on March 6. The studio announced Wednesday that it had dated the film. While plot details are scarce, Pixar did release the tagline for [...]

  • Riverdale Alladin Avengers Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Riverdale,' 'Aladdin' Top 2019 Teen Choice Award Nominations

    The nominations for the 2019 Teen Choice Awards have been revealed, and voting has opened for the top movies, TV shows and music that has dominated the last year. “Avengers: Endgame” and “Aladdin” are the top contenders in the movie category with nine and five nods, respectively. In TV, “Riverdale,” “The Flash” and “Shadowhunters” each [...]

  • 'Toy Story 4' Box Office: Pixar

    Box Office: 'Toy Story 4' Building to $140 Million-Plus Debut

    After a lackluster few weeks at movie theaters, it’s Woody and Buzz Lightyear to the rescue. The dynamic duo is returning to multiplexes for Disney and Pixar’s “Toy Story 4.” The fourth installment in the CGI series is expected to earn north of $140 million when it opens in 4,500 theaters across North America. If [...]

  • Yu Dong, Andrew Lau, Han Han,

    Shanghai Party: Red Carpet Rolled out at Bona Film Group 20th Anniversary Event

    No deal announcements. No talk of the Chinese film industry’s ongoing winter of discontent. Instead the parade of talent on stage Wednesday night at Shanghai’s Wanda Reign hotel put their troubles aside for a moment and celebrated the 20th anniversary of producer-distributor-exhibition company Bona Film Group. At regular intervals, Bona’s founder and chairman Yu Dong [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content