Give Them A Chance (2003)

Directed by: Herman Yau
Written by: Herman Yau & Yeung Yee Shan
Producer: Sam Wong & Ng King-Hung
Starring: Andy Hui, Ellis Tang, Jonathan Cheung, Walter Wong, Howard Kwok, Osman Hung, Eddie Pang, Liu Kai-Chi, Anna Yau & Jason Wong

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Based on the true story of stuntman Sam Wong (1*) leading a young dance troupe of lower-class kids through thick and thin and ending up landing the prestigious gig as back-up dancers on Andy Lau's summer tour, Wong himself co-produced this Herman Yau directed drama. From the welcome nice side of Yau's, he again populates his cast & crew with prior workmates, including Wong (action director on Killing End), star Andy Hui (lead in Killing End), cinematographer Puccini Yu (Ebola Syndrome) and co-writer Yeung Yee Shan (prior collaboration most notably being on From The Queen To The Chief Executive). With a lead cast of largely unknowns as well, it's pretty much risk-taking when looking at the acting aspect only.

Give Them A Chance flashes its obvious problems in the performers but by god, it's hard to dislike a story that got individuals furthered in life. What wasn't truly needed was a movie that can't do anything but mildly reinforce the fact that it was nice to see the kids actually getting a chance. Clearly Yau and co-writer Yeung Yee Shan work with very little so they fill up the 90+ running time with standard interludes of romance, triad confrontations, self-doubt and the great, big dance finale that should close this type of film. What's featured are merely setups of below average characterizations and themes, nothing that travels beyond the screen into the viewers who are waiting for their chance as well.

Not that the timing is wrong. On the contrary, the new millennium holds dance in all shape or forms, being so deeply imbedded in the social conscience that even South Park parodied it! At any rate, Herman Yau clearly doesn't feel inspired and only brings good-hearted, basic intentions. Possessing street dancing abilities, Give Them A Chance gives us the portrayal of kids choosing that in favour of crime (although they do hang out on the streets at night). Enter adults that see clearly, see the kids as character builders, other sections of the "adult" world as quite catastrophic and you have yourself a based on a true story scenario that has flashed before us millions of times before. Again, you can't feel offended, only disappointed that the movie didn't enhance the story at all.

Problem lies also in Yau's casting of mostly new kids on the Hong Kong cinema block. This choice is a challenge because it's not a given that you actually manage to tap into a new actor's abilities to play a version very close to themselves. For Give Them A Chance, Yau gets truly awkward delivery and presence out of most as clearly they play better when in their dancing element rather than as leading men and ladies. One success story out of the ensemble however is Howard Kwok as the mute Kenny as he uses a non-verbal presence quite naturally. Ellis Tang is a cutie pie but probably the whiniest female seen in cinema that year. Andy Hui's performance works well as an adult counterpart, nothing more nothing less and his redemption story with his brother is only nudged by Yau, making us even forget it was there in the first place. Liu Kai-Chi appears in support, dependable as always while Anthony Wong and Andy Lau logs cameos as themselves. For Lau, his minor appearance here is further testament to his willingness to support the industry. Be it for these kids or for new directors as in his "FOCUS: First Cuts" project. Top guy.

It's not like only Hong Kong filmmakers have taken the opportunity to take an inspiring real life story to the big screen and these dancing kids success story deserves to be known. Not necessarily seen on the big screen though and Herman Yau has definitely seen better days regardless of what moods he's employing.

The DVD:

Deltamac presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.76:1 approximately. Mild wear pops up, colours are fairly decent but the transfer is merely average overall in most departments.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track appears to be encoded in mono all the way, despite the film being mixed in Dolby originally. This creates a rather flat and only fairly audible experience. A Mandarin 2.0 dub is also included.

The English subtitles are mostly well-written but are mistimed during Anthony Wong's cameo. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available.

So is a short Behind The Scenes program (3 minutes, 4 seconds) sans English subtitles for the interviews but the affair clearly doesn't offer any substance despite. The trailer is the remaining extra.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson

(1) You can see Sam Wong as one of the Mainland Chinese police cadets fighting Jackie Chan at the beginning of Police Story III: Supercop.