Red Trousers: The Life of the Hong Kong Stuntmen

Red Trousers: The Life of the Hong Kong Stuntmen
Film review by: Witney Seibold

Red Trousers

“Red trousers” as is iterated endlessly throughout the film, are the pantaloons donned by the indentured servants of the Beijing Opera, the source, many believe, of what we perceive today to be action choreography.

Stunt performers probably have one of the hardest jobs in show business. Sure, producers take all the rap when comes to money, and few things can be worse than being an unpaid intern getting barked at by an angry PA, but when it comes to actual physical strain and injury, look to stunt performers. They don’t get nearly enough credit in my eyes. Zoë Bell, Uma Thurman’s stunt performer in “Kill Bill” deserves just as much credit as the actress. It is something of a shame, then, that the documentary “Red Trousers: The Life of the Hong Kong Stuntmen,” purporting to report on and celebrate the lives of the virtuosic dancers of violence, is a sloppy and slipshod affair.

The film is set up in the following manner: We’re given an intro, backstory, and titles for a film called “Lost Time,” the usual sort of cyber-kung-fu-supernatural-zombie-action flick, and nothing to do with Proust. After a few minutes of this malarkey, we cut away to director/stunt performer Robin Shou (if you recognize him, you saw “Mortal Kombat,” one of the goofiest action flicks this side of the Pacific. He played Liu Kang). We get interviews with greats like Sammo Hung. We see an Australian trying to break into the predominantly Asian art. We see current students of the Beijing Opera hoping, o hoping, that they won’t disappoint. We see performers of the actual Beijing Opera. And it is all intercut with scenes from “Lost Time.”

I wonder why they included an action short at all. In a documentary like this, obviously designed for the hardcore stunt-philes, one would expect more… stunts. More history. Many site Jackie Chan as a master, but he is not included in the proceedings. A play-by-play of the falling and smashing from “Lost Time” would have been appropriate, but we’re actually bogged down, in a documentary mind you, with back story. Go see it if you’re around 14 and are just beginning to learn names like Yuen Wo Ping. Otherwise, stick with the genuine article.

Published in: on August 28, 2009 at 4:22 am  Leave a Comment  

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