You ever had one of those days where nothing seemed to go your way? Of course you have. You’re a human, right? We all have days like that. Thankfully, for most of us, those days are the exception and not the rule. But for Cheung, every day is the new worst day of his life. After a childhood spent bullying his best friend like a younger brother, Cheung somehow grew up to be the nerd that the universe loves to pick on. Barely scraping by as the low-man on the totem pole at a real estate company, he’s sent on an extended assignment, sans pay, to a small village that’s having some property and leasing issues.
Almost instantly, Cheung runs afoul of the local bullies. The seemingly small altercation quickly escalates to a full blown battle at a local tea house. The owner and regulars stand up to the bullies and soon the cops come and break it up. Cheung thinks they have protected him and tries to make friends. He’s so clumsy and such a magnet for trouble that it’s a tough road. The owner and his best friend are old students of a Kung Fu master who has been a coma for decades. They’ve stayed by his side through the years, waiting for him to recover and taking care of his school, which they had to convert to a teahouse to keep up and running. When their master finally awakens not realizing that any time has passed, Cheung is mistaken for his pupils and finally gets the opportunity to train in martial arts. But the local gang isn’t done with our motley crew of heroes and more fighting breaks out between the two groups.
Gallants is a strange, quirky film, filled with several decent action scenes and broad comedy. Each character is introduced with a freeze frame and a large text credit with both the actor and character names, which gives the movie a slick, comic book feel. Cheung is the goofy everyman who just can’t seem to do anything right. It seems like he’d be more at home in a Coen brothers’ film as a lovable loser than as the slightly annoying lead in a martial arts film. The fight scenes themselves are good but not outstanding, though they should receive special mention since the two students involved in many of the fights are older men who are in their 50s or 60s. The more impressive of the two is even slightly crippled, wearing a leg brace, though it seems to make no difference when he faces his opponents.
While there is a lot to like about Gallants, it falls just a little flat in the execution. The pacing is a bit too slow for what should be a fast action-comedy and while the humor induces a few chuckles, it’s never quite as funny as you would hope. The elements are there but they don’t quite come together to form a great film. It’s an enjoyable film that can be fun to watch, but it simply comes up a bit short.