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“Gallants,” a geriatric kung fu comedy.

“Gallants,” a geriatric kung fu comedy. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival.

If Betty White can host “Saturday Night Live” at age 88, why can’t a bunch of former martial arts heavyweights headline their own kung fu movie at 60? They can, as evidenced by surprisingly athletic and impressively self-deprecating performances from Bruce Leung and Chen Kuan-tai in NYAFF selection “Gallants.”

Unlike their aging American counterparts, who stretch their faces tighter across their skulls with each new role, Leung and Chen look every bit of their 62 and 64 years, respectively, which is exactly what this film, a very funny comedy about the cruelty of old age, demands.

Leung and Chen are Tiger and Dragon — don’t expect much crouching or hiding, they’re too arthritic for that stuff — the last remaining students of the once great Master Law (Teddy Robin), who has been lost to an endless coma for 30 years. Eternally loyal, they’ve stayed at his bedside and turned his martial arts club into a teahouse that’s now part of a land dispute that dweeby young real estate agent Cheung (Wong Yue-nam) has been sent to resolve.

Lucky for Tiger and Dragon, he’d much rather learn kung fu than snatch the deed to the property, which was given to the Law club decades earlier by the father of the local bully (and object of Cheung’s childhood aggressions) Mang (MC Jin).

07052010_Gallants2.jpgReally, though, the film is less concerned with narrative than showcasing the still-feisty fighting skills of Leung and Chen, and the spot-on comedic timing of Robin, who awakens from his coma as a crazy old coot with no conception of how long he’s been asleep. He promptly mistakes Cheung for Tiger and Tiger for a new student, and then lays out his hilariously Draconian club rules: 1. No guys with long hair. 2. No one who wants to learn kung fu for the health or fitness benefits. 3. No ugly people. His whole schtick is one extended riff on the cliché of the wise old kung fu master, but if it’s a one-joke character, it’s a damn good joke. In his one fight scene, Robin’s Master Law is quickly felled by an errant fanny pack.

The Law clan’s battle with a flashier, slicker school of kung fu mirrors these aging masters’ struggle for relevance in the world of contemporary Asian cinema. Directors Derek Kwok and Clement Cheng have an obvious affection for their stars and the movies of their heyday, but they’re not so blinded by admiration that they can’t poke fun at them as well. Awesome as they are, those old kung fu flicks were a bit silly too, with their deadly venoms and excessively preening fighters, and “Gallants” does a nice job of memorializing all the stuff that made those films so simultaneously cool and goofy.

The film chugs along with a manic energy that belies the actors’ age and it captures the spirit of the old Shaw Brothers style with an evocatively retro score and opening credits sequence. But even if you’ve never seen one of those movies before, there’s a lot to enjoy about “Gallants.”

This could have been an exercise in cheap nostalgia, and it’s not. Taken entirely on its own, it’s a wholly entertaining and touching movie about friendship and growing old. So why stop the old school revival at one movie? ’70s-style kung fu by guys in their 70s would be awesome. Maybe they can get Betty White to play Master Law’s long-lost wife in the sequel.

“Gallants” does not yet have U.S. distribution. It plays Tuesday, July 6 and 8 at 6 PM at the Walter Reade Theater in New York City.

[Photos: “Gallants,” Focus Films/Newport Entertainment, 2010]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…