Director: Ka-Wai Kam
Writer: Tai-lee Chan
Stars: Donnie Yen, Joe Chen, Kang Yu
When it comes to reality, Big Brother is to education what Star Wars is to space travel. But let’s not hold that against it.
As a longtime teacher in the real world, I speak from experience. In 20+ years, I’ve never said or done anything that makes an entire class of delinquents suddenly think I’m cool. I don’t visit them at home, become their buddy or fix their broken homes. I’m not idolised by the entire student body, nor do they line up to take selfies with me. And I sure as hell haven’t used my considerable martial arts skills to save the entire school from the local mob (this movie’s goofiest subplot).
But who the hell wants a movie showing a dedicated teacher in the act of actual teaching? Or grading papers on weekends? Or attending weekly staff meetings? If said-teacher is played by Donnie Yen, we want him to kick some serious ass in the name of education.
Big Brother is sort-of like Stand and Deliver…with fists. As such, the movie is a lot of fun, even as we’re rolling our eyes over the absurdity of it all. Though he has zero experience, Henry Chen (Yen) manages to land a job as casually as applying at 7-Eleven. In quick order, he manages to whip his kids into academic shape, five of them, in particular (because screw everyone else). No student has an extracurricular problem that can’t be immediately solved by Chen’s wisdom, encouragement and a few roundhouse kicks to the right faces. He even becomes a local celebrity by pummelling a crooked MMA fighter.
You won’t believe – or be surprised by – a single minute of it. But when you’ve got Donnie Yen at the head of the class, who cares? In addition to his considerable physical skills, he’s always been a charismatic actor and is certainly likeable here. So even though most of his actions would have a real educator hauled before a review board, Henry Chen is the guy real teachers dream they could be.
Alas, it’ll have to remain a dream for now. But until that fine day when teachers are unleashed to take education by the balls and beat it into submission, we can experience it vicariously through movies like Big Brother. Though outlandish and completely predictable, it’s the lighter side of Donnie Yen and one of his more entertaining recent films.