门前宝地Directed by Xu Haofeng, Xu Junfeng
Cast: Andy On, Jacky Heung
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2023 Shanghai International Film Festival
It starts out familiar enough – a breathtaking duel in the snow. A somber master watches as his best student fights his only son. The winner will inherit Tianjin’s oldest martial arts academy along with its tangled clout as village guardian. But after the son Shen is defeated and obsessively pursues rematch after rematch, 100 YARDS unfurls unlike any other martial arts film. That’s because it’s multi-hyphenate writer (The Grandmaster), martial artist, and historian Xu Haofeng at work.
Xu serves the adrenaline we crave: stylized worldbuilding, parable-like storytelling, and (with renowned choreographer Duncan Kwong) hyper-kinetic combat sequences grounded in realism. But Xu also renews the genre with a sociologist and practitioner’s eye. Favoring fidelity with wide shots and minimal tricks, Xu captures furious showdowns that go from one-on-one to one-on-one-hundred, at times with eccentric weapons and historical experiments: could those short sabres actually take on extremely long swords? And truer to a world as collegial as it was combative, bitter rivals might suddenly break for conversation – a match less like death and more like chess.
In the meantime, Shen’s (Jacky Heung) escalating showdowns with Qi (Andy On) disturb a delicate balance with the village outside, inviting new threats from slingshot crimelords and European interests. After all, it’s 1920s Tianjin, the Chinese empire has just fallen, and power dynamics are in flux. Martial artists have moved up from social pariah to esteemed steward. A kung fu master might even dream of becoming a banker or a mailman. Along with a quirkily melodramatic love triangle and a secret Fourth Fist fighting form, co-directors (and brothers) Xu and Xu Junfeng affectionately explore the modern quandaries, historical oddities, and social questions of a martial arts culture all but left behind.
– Christina Ree
Film underwritten by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association San Diego.
Co-Presented by United Front Multicultural Commons at the University of San Diego.