Miracles do happen; never say die

The Chinese comedy Never Say Die may not topbill big names, but it has other things going its way, including its underdog plot that teleserye-loving Pinoys like to root for

Miracles do happen; never say die
(The Philippine Star) - March 1, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Chinese movies have been part of our lives ever since we can remember. Jackie Chan is one of China’s biggest exports. Chow Yun-fat and Andy Lau, with films like A Better Tomorrow and Chasing the Dragon, respectively, also enjoy stellar status among moviegoers here and abroad.

The Chinese comedy Never Say Die may not topbill these big names, but it has other things going its way.

First, its underdog plot is what teleserye-loving Pinoys root for.

The story revolves around an underdog who inspires the kind of sympathy we Pinoys reserve for the bullied bida or the orphaned child. Boxer Edison (Ai Lun) is a dark horse in the ring because his opponent in a much-anticipated fight is ruthless and undefeated. Just about the only one — aside from a male friend —  who believes in him is Ma Li (Xiao Xiao).

Second, the movie tackles serious things like corruption in sports and game fixing, which Filipinos are again familiar with. The difference is, the film is a comedy, and the issue is just a means to get the story moving, not the story itself.

Third, its generous dose of humor makes us look at problems, not in the way a dead serious police investigator would, but in the way people pushed against the wall would. They resort to outlandish ways like outstaring an owl till they develop black circles around the eyes.

And because the characters are, again, not some secret agent you can’t talk to, but ordinary humans who do silly things like falling headlong into a pool, you embrace them the way you would a brother or a friend. If they work hard, and turn what seems to be a hopeless situation around, so can you.

This could probably be why the director didn’t cast superstars in the lead roles. Ai Lun and Xiao Xiao’s names may not ring many bells, but they play their roles so seamlessly, and they show such chemistry, you grip the edge of your seat when they’re in trouble, heave a sigh of relief when the danger is over, guffaw when they  make silly mistakes, etc.   

Ai Lun is Edison, a has-been boxer who seems to be going nowhere but down. Xiao Xiao is celebrity sports journalist Ma Li,  who has loved deeply, but not well.

Their paths cross in a public event. Ma Li eavesdrops on a tell-all conversation. Ai Lun chases her, and they fall pell-mell into a pool whose waters have that switcheroo effect. He gets her body; she gets his.

The duo exhausts their bag of tricks — and ends up looking like bumbling fools — to get their old selves back. One unfortunate event leads to another — until the two discover sticking together is the best way they can win the battle, not only for their old selves. They must right a wrong in the Ultimate Fighting King title which legions of unsuspecting fans have latched on to for so long.

Never Say Die shows us that yes, there’s a new tomorrow waiting for us even in the darkest night. But it shows this in such a fun, rib-tickling, feel-good way you don’t shed tears of joy at the end of the film. You smile or laugh — depending on whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.

The point is, you leave the cinema believing that miracles happen if you work hard, do good and yes, never say die.

The movie, which has surpassed the $250M earned by Jackie Chan’s Kung Fu Yoga last year, is now showing in cinemas.

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