China, 2012, colour, 2.35:1, 85 mins.
Director: Jiang Cong 蒋丛 [Michael Chiang].
Formulaic youth movie about breakdancers boasts likeable, natural playing.
Chengdu, Sichuan province, southern China, the present day. At a breakdance gathering one night, attended by Li Si (Lisi Danni) and her team, fighting starts and a person is accidentally killed. Li Si’s elder brother, Li Ke (Wang Chuanjun), is sent to prison for seven years for manslaughter. Li Si leaves for Shenzhen, Guangdong province, to study dance under Fan Xing (Ke Youlun), who teaches at the Baoan Fuyong Acrobatics Troupe. His girlfriend, Qiangwei (Liu Mengmeng), who died a year ago in a car crash, was a cousin of Juzi (Chen Qiaoxi), a co-dancer in Li Si’s dance group. Before leaving, Li Si promises her brother, who raised her after their parents died when she was six, not to get involved in breakdancing again. In Shenzhen, Li Si meets a breakdance group, X-Power, practising in the street next to her hotel but refuses their invitation to join them. At her audition, she’s told the dance school doesn’t accept street dancers, only those with ballet training. Back in Chengdu, she finds her brother has fallen ill and needs money for an operation. She decides to take part in a dance competition in Shenzhen, with her former group, for which the prize money is RMB300,000, but then finds Fan Xing, whom she’s become fond of, will be competing against her with the acrobatics troupe. She tries to persuade a seedy nightclub manager (Zhang Ningjiang) to let her rehearse on his premises but walks out when he requires sexual favours from her. Unknown to her, Juzi offers to “dance” for the manager for money, to help Li Si raise the money for her brother’s medical expenses.
A youth movie set in the world of breakdancing, Fearless 热血街头 is utterly formulaic in construction – a young dancer nees to win a competition to pay for her imprisoned brother’s medical expenses – but boasts natural performances, even in the smaller roles, and an easy overall style. Most of all, it introduces a characterful new screen talent in Sichuan-born hip-hop star Lisi Danni 李斯丹妮, 22, who made a brief but memorable debut in Buddha Mountain 观音山 (2010) as a gang-girl French-kissed by the character played by actress Fan Bingbing 范冰冰. In her first lead role, as spunky Chengdu breakdancer Li Si, she doesn’t overdo the youthful moodiness or mumbling, and has an easy chemistry with Taiwan singer-actor Ke Youlun 柯有伦 (Din Tao: Leader of the Parade 阵头, 2012), son of late actor-director Ke Shouliang 柯受良 [Blackie Ko], who’s a sunny presence as a drop-out dance teacher. Among the supports, actress Chen Qiaoxi 陈乔希 stands out as a dancer pal of Li Si.
In his first theatrical feature after several films for CCTV’s Movie Channel, 29-year-old writer-director Jiang Cong 蒋丛, born in Beijing but raised in Xi’an and California, directs with a relaxed, streetwise feel that’s not too MV-slick. Script construction is basic and the dance sequences aren’t especially notable, but it’s a solid enough movie on its own terms, held together by the performances, lightly sprinkled with a moral subtext, and with professional technical back-up from veteran Hong Kong d.p. Lin Guohua 林国华 [Ardy Lam] and Mainland editor Meng Peicong 孟佩璁 (The Flowers of War 金陵十三钗, 2011).
The Chinese title means “Hot-Blooded Streets”. The film was previously known as Blood Street. Shenzhen Bao’an Fuyong Acrobatics Troupe 深圳市宝安区福永杂技艺术团, which funded production, gets several plugs but doesn’t fit comfortably into what is basically a breakdance/youth movie.
Presented by Shenzhen Bao’an Fuyong Acrobatics Troupe (CN).
Script: Jiang Cong [Michael Chiang]. Photography: Lin Guohua [Ardy Lam]. Editing: Meng Peicong. Music: Xue Lin, Jin Minqi. Art direction: Ma Hongtao. Costumes: Tao Wuqi. Styling: Zhang Yuanci. Sound: Li Ke. Action: Hu Zhilong. Choreography: Ning Tao. Acrobatics advice: Bian Faji. Second-unit photography: Wang Wenbing.
Cast: Ke Youlun (Fan Xing), Lisi Danni (Li Si), Sui Kai [Michael Sui] (competition MC), Zhang Ningjiang (nightclub manager), Chen Qiaoxi (Juzi), Wang Chuanjun (Li Ke, Li Si’s brother), Liu Mengmeng (Qiangwei), Sun Changmeng (Fan Yu), Ning Tao (Da Shou), Kong Guangfu (Guangfu), Zheng Xunan (Nan), Liang Yongli (Da Sheng), Wang Cong (basketball player), Gao Zhuangzhuang (ruffian), Ma Hongtao (priest), Gao Peng (Li Si’s father), Wang Siqin (Li Si’s mother), Wang Meixuan (young Li Si), Li Chao (young Li Ke), Shi Laiqun (chief examiner), Yao Yao, Sun Huiying (deputy examiners), Fu Jingshui (acrobatics trainer), Zhang Fei (deputy trainer), Wang Yan (nurse).
Release: China, 20 Jul 2012.
(Review originaly published on Film Business Asia, 5 Jan 2013.)