|Xiao Dre (Jaden Smith)|
I am normally the first to come down on a remake that is this similar to the original, but sticking to much of the original material is the film’s strength. There are really only two problems with the film. The first one is with the age of the kids. They take quite a beating and can be rather vicious. It makes moments that should make us cheer or jeer cause us to cringe. The second problem is that the evil teacher wasn’t fleshed out enough. In the original it’s made clear that the evil teacher served in Vietnam and enjoyed it because he likes hurting people. The new teacher just puts on an evil face and rattles off the catch phrases from the original like, “No mercy!”
I’m assuming your familiar with the Rocky-like story about a kid who needs to win because he doesn’t just need self-respect, he needs the respect of his peers so he can go about his life without fear of being beaten up. So the only other thing of note is that the film is also a bit of propaganda for China. Short of the plot needing some bad guys, the film makes China out to be far more perfect than is possible. When Dre is beaten up it’s just bullying. Everybody else wants to touch his cornrows.
Worth a look if only to see Jackie Chan deliver a dramatic performance and do it well.