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The Lion Men: Passable film with some glaring flaws

Singapore director Jack Neo's new lion dance-themed film "The Lion Men" has some impressive lion dance sequences and genuinely funny moments, but is marred by too many product placements and a cluttered plot.

SINGAPORE: There are a lot of things going on in the first installment of Singapore director Jack Neo's new two-part lion dance-themed film "The Lion Men".

The film's main storyline revolves around two members of the Tiger-Crane Lion Dance Association, Wang Wei Cheng (Tosh Zhang) and Mikey (Wang Weiliang).

In "The Lion Men", Singapore actor Tosh Zhang plays Wang Wei Cheng, a skilled lion dance performer with the Tiger-Crane lion dance troupe who wants to break away from tradition and inject dance as well as hip hop elements into its performances.

But this does not sit well with the troupe's leader Master He (Chen Tianwen), who feels that Wang does not respect traditional lion dance, and kicks him out of the troupe.

Wang joins another troupe which shares his vision and winds up going head to head with his former buddies in the Tiger-Crane lion dance troupe at a big lion dance competition.

With Wang gone, his troupe mate Mikey now has to overcome his fear of heights and replace Wang - a person he thoroughly respects - as the troupe's star performer, and try to lead the troupe to victory in the competition.

"The Lion Men" has numerous sub-plots as well, such as Wang and Mikey's love triangle with Master He's beautiful daughter He Xiao Yu (Eva Cheng), Mikey's odd relationship with a sort of cyborg lion creature, and Zhang Da Peng's (Noah Yap's) romance with one of He Xiao Yu's friends.

Massive mixed platter

Neo tries to weave all these story threads into a rich tapestry, but he doesn't quite manage to do it.

"The Lion Men" resembles a massive mixed platter of appetisers without a clear main course, in terms of its storyline.

"The Lion Men" starts to lose its direction about two thirds of the way through, as the line between sub-plot and main story becomes completely blurred.

The film feels a little disjointed, though it could well be that the second part of "The Lion Men" will tie everything up.

It does not help that the film has numerous scenes which do not further the plot, but seem to act as mini-advertisements for certain products, and clutter the film.

Redemption

While "The Lion Men" has a number of glaring flaws, it does have some redeeming features.

The upside of having so many story threads is that things seldom get stale.

There is always something new for the audience to see, even though it sometimes just means seeing new ways in which product placements are squeezed into "The Lion Men".

In addition, while they do not add much to the story, the computer generated special effects  in "The Lion Men"  are quite good, which is something not often seen in local films.

Still, it is the film's cast which turns out to be its greatest asset. 

Tosh Zhang and the rest of the returning cast members of "Ah Boys to Men", like Noah Yap and Maxi Lim, are extremely likeable and turn in reasonably good performances in "The Lion Men".

However, it is Wang Weiliang who stands out for his portrayal of Mikey - he brings out Mikey's vulnerability and yearning to belong without overacting.

All this, along with some genuinely humorous scenes and impressive lion dance sequences in the film make "The Lion Men" a passable movie, though it may require audiences to look past the film's many distracting product placements in order to enjoy it.

3/5 stars.

"The Lion Men" is now showing.

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