ASIAN FILM - Review
11:00 - 30th July 2016, by David West

High Kickers

Coach Zhao’s Pilot Taekwondo Club is on its last legs. Following the death of his star pupil Han Xufeng (Daniel Chan) in a match, he’s lost all interest in teaching until Lingling (Eva Huang) arrives. She wants Zhao to train her so she can enter the championships and face Gao (Mark Cheng), Han’s opponent from that fatal contest. Lingling has zero experience but won’t take no for an answer – Han was her brother and she wants to restore her family’s honour.

Xie Yi’s feature treads very similar territory to Rob Radler’s 1989 classic Best Of The Best, in which Phillip Rhee’s character battles the man responsible for his older brother’s death. Radler’s movie is the far stronger of the two, thanks to a great cast that includes James Earl Jones, Eric Roberts and Chris Penn, plus brilliant and bruising fight scenes.

High Kickers’ formulaic plot would be more easily forgiven if the Taekwondo scenes packed a wallop, but none of the principal cast shows any skill at the sport and Eva Huang in particular is hopeless. All the leads are extensively stunt-doubled when the feet start flying and Xie Yi’s decision to shoot the matches from overhead helps hide the identity of the doubles, but robs Taekwondo’s high kicks of their visual power. Compared to the screen heroines of ‘80s Hong Kong cinema – Moon Lee, Michelle Yeoh, Yukari Oshima – Huang looks like a lightweight.

Xie Yi and Huang are better at melodrama than action, and High Kickers lacks knockout power.
SCORE: 2/5
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