Contemporary World Cinema | 2017 | 87 minutes
Stranger Says: This martial-arts drama is told with heart and humor. It is about an entitled slacker who has a strained relationship with her karate coach dad. She blames him for her mom leaving, and she also has lingering resentment about being forced to learn karate as a child (she quit before getting her black belt). She is also mad about growing up in an apartment he made into a dojo, which, after his passing, she plans to convert into multiple living spaces and rake in the cash as a slumlord. Except her dad wills her only 49 percent of it—the other 51 percent is left to an ex-student who seems intent on keeping the dojo open. Their inevitable clash ends in a proposition that forces her to evaluate what’s really important: He’ll give her his share if she can make it through (not necessarily win) a legitimate martial-arts competition.
SIFF Says:Quiet and reserved with particular charm, THE EMPTY HANDS is less about martial arts than it is about a woman struggling to accept herself. Mari Hirakawa (Stephy Tang) lives an idle life. When her father (Yasuaki Kurata) passes away, Mari delightfully plans to cash in on his karate dojo and renovate it into an apartment. However, complications arise when Mari learns that part of the dojo has been given to her father’s former student, Chan Kent (Chapman To). Chan offers to release the dojo to Marie if she can prove her mettle in a fighting ring. Embittered, Mari rekindles her fighting spirit but soon learns that there is more to life than just selfish desires. Filled with bright, vibrant colors, this film is a nice balance between quirky characters and unique camerawork that moves steadily back-and-forth within scenes without sudden cuts. Actor-director Chapman To is known for his work in comedic Hong Kong films such as LET’S EAT! Despite THE EMPTY HANDS being a dramatic piece, To manages to insert his humor with particular music during moments audiences would least expect, giving the film a self-aware, sardonic persona. With bits of wry humor and portrayals of fun characters, THE EMPTY HANDS is sure to entertain.
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