The Lion Men: Ultimate Showdown(2014)
- RatedPG /GenreAction, Drama
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It is quite heartening to see that Singapore commercial filmmaker Jack Neo still has new tricks and surprises up his sleeves, as he delivers the concluding episode of his latest movie franchise, ‘The Lion Men: Ultimate Showdown’.
The narrative picks up from where ‘The Lion Men’ left off, where Mikey (Wang Weiliang) has conquered his fear of heights and put up an impressive performance in the Creative Lion Dance Competition trials, causing Shi Shen (Tosh Zhang) to become wary and jealous of him, especially after Shi Shen discovered Mikey’s feelings for his girlfriend Xiao Yu (Eva Cheng).
The stage for the ‘Ultimate Showdown’ is being set up as Shi Shen prepares to face off against Mikey in the Lion Dance Competition Finals, even though Mikey does not really want to compete against his former mate and mentor.
IMPROVED PRODUCTION BUT SILLY GAGS REMAIN
While the first ‘Lion Men’ features really funny, Chinese dialect-laden quick wit delivered by the likes of Master He (Chen Tianwen), offering us more insight into the world of Chinese lion-dancing, actor Chen is given very little to do in ‘Ultimate Showdown’, since he is wheelchair-bound for two-sthirds of the movie.
The rest of the supporting cast members, such as Maxi Lim, Charlie Goh, Noah Yap, are mostly reduced to being mere sidekicks to help move the plot along, and given few opportunities to shine, while the main villain is so over-the-top that he comes across more like a spoilt brat rather than a menacing baddie.
The funniest scene comes late into the movie, using a cliche device dating back to Neo’s other hit movie, ‘I Not Stupid’, and involving guest stars Wang Lei and Li Feihui.
The dialogue and chemistry of Wang and Li is a Jack Neo movie must-have, and the rapid-fire banter between the two works well with effortless comic timing and delivery.
Production-wise, the final showdown between the three main lion dance teams were enhanced by video graphics that interact creatively with the live-action lion dance performers on the Resorts World Singapore Theatre stage, delivering quite an impressive visual treat.
The product placements, also a must-have in all Jack Neo productions, are subtler, thank goodness.
The movie is really carried by the three leads, Zhang, Wang and Cheng, and their triangle.
Zhang’s angsty performance makes it seem as if he is the main antagonist.
Wang, who plays the underdog hero, puts up a layered performance that really shines through as audiences are led to empathize and root for Mikey. He also sings the love theme song ‘Brushing Your Shoulders’.
Cheng may not have much to work with as a damsel in distress, but her on-screen chemistry with Wang is natural and convincing. Coupled with her good looks, there is potential for her to grow.
With a cost of $4 million to make the two-part duology back-to-back, director Neo has declared openly that ‘The Lion Men’ is his most challenging and ambitious movie to date.
What transpired onscreen does convey the efforts of the filmmaker and production team.
He did not opt for an easy and cliched ending to round things up, having an extended epilogue set in Shanghai that delivers a few surprises of its own.
In showcasing the breathtaking cinematography of the city, and perhaps as a subtext, he may be conveying his ambition to explore horizons beyond the shores of Singapore and Malaysia.
‘The Lion Men: The Ultimate Showdown’ is now showing in cinemas
The Lion Men Ultimate Showdown