- Associated Press - Sunday, April 17, 2011

HONG KONG (AP) - Hong Kong’s annual film awards on Sunday honored a sentimental favorite with its top prize _ a quirky, low-budget action comedy about a kung fu master who briefly wakes up from a 30-year-old coma to train two aging students and two newcomers.

The $643,200 production “Gallants” beat out better-funded and more star-studded movies for the top prize at the 30th Hong Kong Film Awards, including the John Woo-produced kung fu thriller “Reign of Assassins,” which starred former Bond girl Michelle Yeoh; “Ip Man 2,” the biopic headlined by action star Donnie Yen, and veteran Hong Kong director Tsui Hark’s lavish fantasy epic “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame.”

It was sweet vindication for Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau and his producer, actor Lam Ka-tung, the driving forces behind the long-shot project. “Gallants” was also beloved by local critics, clinching best picture and best actor at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society’s annual awards earlier this year.

Tsui, one of Hong Kong’s most versatile filmmakers whose credits range from comedy to action and animation, however, didn’t go home empty-handed. He won best director and the actress he cast as an ancient Chinese empress in “Detective Dee,” Carina Lau, took best actress honors.

Nicholas Tse, who played a reluctant informant in the police thriller “The Stool Pigeon,” was named best actor, prevailing in a deep field that included veterans Chow Yun-fat and Tony Leung Ka-fai and past winner Nick Cheung, Tse’s co-star in “The Stool Pigeon.”

“Gallants” producer Lam, co-directors Derek Kwok and Clement Cheng leapt up and hugged cast members when the best picture award was announced. Kwok jumped and pumped his fist in the air.

“I really don’t care about how many honors ‘Gallants’ wins. The most important thing is the spirit and meaning behind the movie _ it’s the spirit of Hong Kong people, the spirit of Hong Kong movies,” Lam said.

Kwok repeated the line that was the kung fu master’s mantra in the movie: “If you don’t fight you won’t lose, but if you fight you must try to win.”

“That’s the spirit of the Hong Kong movie industry,” Kwok said.

“Gallants” also swept the supporting role awards, with Teddy Robin, who played the martial arts teacher, and veteran actress Susan Shaw, winning in their respective categories. The multitalented Robin picked up a second award for co-writing the movie’s score with Tommy Wai.

Tsui, who is known for his work ethic, thanked his crew.

“I have this reputation for working both cast members and crew members very hard,” Tsui said, “I wanted them to win more than me. They worked much harder than I did.”

Tsui’s crew was also duly recognized on Sunday night at the Hong Kong Cultural Center. “Detective Dee,” which stars Andy Lau as an ancient Chinese official who investigates a series of mysterious deaths by fire, also dominated the technical categories, winning for best art direction, best costume and makeup design, best sound design and best visual effects.

Tse, who has transformed himself from brash pop star to serious actor in recent years, thanked his wife, actress Cecilia Cheung, and his father, veteran actor Patrick Tse, for tolerating his rebellious behavior. The younger Tse saw his career briefly derailed by criminal charges after a driver took the fall for a 2002 car accident he was involved in.

“I hope you forgive the impolite kid who had no sense of perspective. To be able to raise such a troublesome kid and still face the public with smiles, you are the real best actor dad. I’m sorry,” Tse said.

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