Dante Lam returns to sports-based drama after the success of 2013’s Unbeatable, which scored US$5.7m at the Hong Kong box office (and US$18.5m in China) to become the year’s most successful homegrown offering. Throwing his net wider than the MMA cages of that film, To The Fore follows a trio of professional cyclists as they ascend into the sport’s top tier.
I am no kind of ice hockey fan, which should be evident from the fact I refer to it as “ice hockey”. But Legend No.17 was the opening film at Hong Kong’s inaugural Russian Film Festival, and I felt duty bound to show my support and go check it out. AS I was enthusiastically reassured by more knowledgable Canadian friends, the film charts the rise of Soviet hockey champion Valeri Kharlamov (here played by Danila Kozlovsky), who rose through the minor leagues to play for CSKA Moscow and went from unknown to household name with North American audiences during the 1972 Summit Series against the Canadians. At times the direction veers into melodrama, emotions are painted in broad strokes and the staging can be somewhat televisual, but Kozlovsky strikes a commanding presence as the heroic Kharlamov and whenever the action takes to the ice the film more than delivers. It was a great help that I didn’t know the outcome of the series – and truth be told, the film only includes the first encounter of the 8-game contest (look up what happened and you’ll see why) – but the result was a riveting sports drama that build confidently to an edge-of-your-seat showdown.
Seann William Scott delivers what is perhaps the best performance of his career as the slow-witted yet lovable Doug Glatt, who finds himself swept up into the Canadian ice hockey minors when it is discovered he is an expert fighter. With best pal (and co-writer) Jay Baruchel cheering him on, Doug heads north and swiftly makes a name for himself. While this triggers varied responses from his teammates, it sets him on a collision course with the league’s premiere enforcer, Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber). The results are funny and surprisingly sweet, with plenty of tooth-chipping, nose-breaking and blood-swallowing brawling along the way.