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Film Review: Men on the Dragon (Dir. Sunny Chan; 2018) - A Pure Hong Kong Local Genre Film

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

FILE PHOTO: A Poster of MEN ON THE DRAGON (2018). ©One Cool Film Production Limited
FILE PHOTO: A Poster of MEN ON THE DRAGON (2018). ©One Cool Film Production Limited

This film Men on the Dragon (2018)《逆流大叔》was mainly funded by the Hong Kong government's Hong Kong Film Development Council (香港電影發展局, HKFDC) with HK$4,492,800 (about 4.5 million HKD), thus it is purely a local genre film project without Mainland China funding.

People can find other successful local film project The Empty Hands (2017) in terms of artistic achievements. However, The Empty Hands (2017) was a box office failure.

On the contrary, Men on the Dragon (2018) has still been screened in Hong Kong since August 2, 2018 and already earned more than 7 million HKD at present (at the time of writing).

For narrative, this film's protagonist is set as the working class, especially a blue collar. It is unlike average US films which take middle classes / white collars as regular protagonists. It indicates that Dir. Sunny Chan stands with the working class people of Hong Kong. It is one of positive and democratic aspects of this well-made low budget genre film with Hong Kong local specialties.

The story is that an engineering department at telecommunication company Pegasus Broadband (天馬寛頻工程部) facing reconstruction and its imminent aftermath (massive layoffs; termination of contracts).

As a result, the protagonists, 40 year old workers Chan Lung (played by the talented actor Francis Ng), Wong Suk Yee (Chan-Leung Poon), William (Wu Tsz Tung Tony) and their boss Li Jia-tai (Kenny Tak Bun Wong) straggle to survive within the company by winning dragon boat race-strike under their own domestic difficulties with women affaires.

FILE PHOTO: A Still Image of MEN ON THE DRAGON (2018). ©One Cool Film Production Limited
FILE PHOTO: A Still Image of MEN ON THE DRAGON (2018). ©One Cool Film Production Limited

Among all Hong Kong actors, the most charming actor is undoubtedly Francis Ng (吳鎮宇), and people can see this film as his master piece. Indeed, his acting skill and talent are fully harnessed in this action comedy and its rude protagonist. We can find it quite attractive as a movie character.

In fact, audiences laughed at his comical performance so many times and also enjoyed the Wong Suk Yee's cross generational love and annoying relationship with their dragon boat coach Dorothy (played by Jennifer Yu) who is around 25 years old.

Furthermore, the production is a standardised genre filmmaking with multi-cameras and drone-aerial photography. Audience almost cannot find any defects in production values. Even Japanese TV production cannot achieve this cinematic quality of production. In other words, the mode of production is obviously different.

For local film fans, the most impressive thing about this film is that the Sha Tin regional government and the community were in full support of this film production during location shooting. Audiences can actually enjoy the dragon boat at Shing Mun River until the end of the credit roll.

Ethically, this film 'structurally' avoids Hong Kong audience's typical bad habit that generally they don't see the end-credit roll and just leave after the end of the story. In other words, audiences keep seeing the screen as long as the shots shown on the screen. This is what other Hong Kong filmmakers should learn to solve.

In conclusion, at the end of the story, audiences are highly satisfied with its happy ending. It is not like the vague and powerless open ending of The Empty Hands (2017). The dramatic momentum is maintained until the end of the credit roll. Apparently, it is director's insistence on his storytelling.

This film is a quality work and the most well-made-pure-local film production of this year.


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