Sundance Film Festival
PARK CITY -- Jaycee Chan, the son of Jackie Chan, might turn out to be a chip off the old block. In "The Drummer," he doesn't try to imitate his father's martial arts moves but demonstrates plenty of movie star charisma in his own right.
It's fitting that the film is in part a story about a rebellious young man trying to carve out his own identity in the shadow of an overbearing father. This Sundance premiere, competing in the world cinema dramatic section, might not have the art film cachet of other movies in the category, but it's a most entertaining ride with audience appeal well beyond the festival circuit.
Sid (Chan) is the hedonistic playboy son of Kwan (veteran actor Tony Leung Ka Fai), a Hong Kong crime boss. With cheeky insolence, Sid seduces the mistress of his father's gangland rival, Stephen Ma (Kenneth Tsang). Stephen is furious and demands that the boy be punished. To get him out of harm's way, Kwan ships Sid to a remote mountainous region of Taiwan. There, Sid encounters a group of Zen drummers and decides to join their troupe. He undergoes a spiritual and romantic awakening (courtesy of a fellow drummer, played by the fetching Lee Sinje), though of course he eventually will have to return to Hong Kong and settle scores with the criminals.
The film is an odd hybrid of violent action picture and earnest spiritual odyssey, but somehow it all works. This is partly because of the skill of writer-director Kenneth Bi, who brings ferocious energy to the action scenes and sensitivity to the interactions of the drummers, played by U Theatre, a well-known group of Taiwan artists. Scenes in which the Zen masters discipline the headstrong Sid have considerable charm. The script has enough twists and turns to keep us engaged, and the casting is superb.
Besides the great cast, the film boasts first-rate technical credits. Sam Koa's photography of the Taiwanese countryside is spectacular, and the urban scenes are sharply edited by Bi and Isabel Meier. The musical interludes also register effectively. You don't have to take the movie's spiritual message seriously to enjoy "Drummer." This is a true guilty pleasure that will tickle audiences all over the world.