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Film / The Game Changer

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From the director of the TV series, Shanghai Bund. You can practically smell the blood before the bloodshed even begins!

"Between gangs, there will never be a brotherhood. What never changes, are the rewards you reap. The only way you can climb to the top, is to conquer all those at the bottom."

The Game Changer is a 2017 action film, set in 1930s Shanghai in the backdrop of a massive gang war. A throwback to old, Heroic Bloodshed cinema made popular by directors like John Woo, the movie pays homage through its action scenes, stories of brotherhood, power struggle among the triads, and doomed romance which often happens in these kinds of movies.

Fang-Jie and Li Zi-Hao are both men with complicated, interesting pasts, Fang-Jie being one of the youngest hitman in Shanghai who made a name for himself at an early age, while Zi-Hao is a former political dissident member imprisoned for years. After Fang-Jie returns to his Godfather and master Boss Tang, he ends up meeting Zi-Hao again under the most unlikely circumstances.

Do NOT confuse this with the Netflix documentary of the same name.


The Game Changer contains examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: There are a few rather dramatic scenes in between all the action, such as Qian-Qian and her father sharing a heartfelt moment on their swing, Ruo-yun and Zi-Hao reuniting after their year-long separation, and brotherly moments between Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: Well, it does in the funeral procession for Boss Tang. Even though he’s not actually dead.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Much of the movie is set in an opera house called Paramount, with plenty of scenes of showgirls dancing and burlesque performances. Paramount Opera is notably the place Boss Tang meets his eventual demise, in the last scene of the film.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Both Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao wears slick suits and tie in several scenes.
  • Bash Brothers: Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao spends as much time bickering with each other as they spend time bonding as brothers. Mostly its Fang-Jie being the talker though.
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  • Battle in the Rain: Zi-Hao’s first fight scene, where he beats up several prison guards in the rain.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted for Ruo-yun who is seen covered in blood, hair unkempt, clothing tattered and in a complete mess after being tortured for being a student resistance member. Played straight for Qian-Qian, who despite being shot more than twenty times by a machine-gun in her death scene, only had a little bit of blood leaking from her mouth and no visible external damages to her corpse.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Fang-Jie, while taking on large amounts of Ye Qi-shan’s mooks, finds himself being pinned under machine-gun fire, from a nearby corridor full of mooks. Until Zi-Hao suddenly shows up at the other side of the corridor, a machine-gun in hand, and clears the entire corridor of its occupants.
  • Big Fancy House: The Tang manor, home to Boss Tang and his daughter Qian-Qian. Also the setting for the final action scene for Zi-Hao to do a Storming the Castle after Fang-Jie's demise to kill Boss Tang.
  • Blood Brothers: Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao, especially after Zi-Hao gets initiated to be in part of the same gang as Fang-Jie.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: After Zi-Hao gets shot by Fang-Jie and falls backwards into the Suzhou River, his sinking body leaves a thick, red, bloody trail as it descends all the way down.
  • Blood Is the New Black: Fang-Jie, after being shot and being tended to by Zi-Hao, with plenty of blood on him.
  • Body Double: In the final action scene, Zi-Hao, hell-bent on killing Boss Tang to avenge Fang-Jie, finally bursts through Boss Tang’s private quarters after killing his way through all the mooks, and then fires away at Boss Tang at his desk… only that’s NOT Boss Tang, that’s Qian-Qian wearing her father’s hat and suit, because she knew Zi-Hao WILL be coming for her father soon and wish to atone for his sins.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Implied to be the relationship between Fang-Jie and Qian-Qian; being Boss Tang’s most trusted lieutenant, Fang-Jie started out as her personal guardian, but as they spend more time with each other she eventually fell for him.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: During the rescue scene, Fang-Jie battles one of Ye Qi-shan’s minions, who looks like any one of Ye’s random red-uniformed mobsters, but actually lasts for more than two minutes fighting Fang-Jie one-on-one, even beating Fang-Jie down in more than one point in their brawl. Fang-Jie finally defeats him with some great degree of effort, by shoving a wooden bookend into his throat as hard as he can.
  • Break the Haughty: The wisecracking, happy-go-lucky, and often overconfident Fang-Jie suffers a Heroic BSoD when Boss Tang, the closest he has to a father figure, allegedly dies halfway in the movie. And even further when his long-time best friend Zi-Hao is revealed to be a political activist and therefore his enemy, and he’s forced to shoot Zi-Hao after everything they’ve been through.
  • Burlesque: Dancers in this attire shows up during scenes in the Paramount Nightclub.
  • Car Cushion: In the opening scene, Owen jumps out from a window, shooting several mooks on balconies and rooftops, before landing harmlessly on a parked car.
  • Car Fu: After the prison breakout, Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao ends up being assaulted by gangsters in automobiles, where Zi-Hao managed to hijack one of them and Drives Like Crazy smashing up pursuing vehicles as well as street signs and parked cars on the roadside.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Fang-Jie, having a Motor Mouth, often talks in the middle of shootouts. In the prison breakout scene where Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao are battling hordes and hordes of guards, Fang-Jie comments on the situation every now and then while shooting at enemies, causing a bored Zi-Hao, completely uninterested to be engaged in a conversation, to glare at him silently motioning Fang-Jie to shut the hell up.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: For once, an example involving the good guys. Zi-Hao is confronted by Tanaka, who is surrounded by a band of mooks, but it turns out those mooks are on Zi-Hao's side, having being bribed by Boss Tang. In the next scene Tanaka ends up getting held down and beaten by his own men.
  • Chain Pain: In his first fight scene, Zi-Hao attempts to fight his way past prison guards while being chained up and forced to march in the rain. The chain loosens a bit, allowing him to use those as improvised whips and knuckle dusters against the guards.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Qian-qian, while being Ye Qi-shan’s captive, manage to actually break free and escape on her own. Even when a Giant Mook held her at gunpoint, she’s at least capable enough to overpower him, firstly by subduing him with a Groin Attack and then smashing a vase over his noggin’ knocking him out cold.
  • Dancing with Myself: Qian-Qian does some barefoot dancing in her room, despite Zi-Hao being right there next to her. She’s tempting him to dance with her.
  • Destination Defenestration: In Owen’s intro, he tackles a mook out of a window, causing the mook to fall three stories to his death.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Boss Ye Qi-shan is set up as a major threat to Boss Tang’s activities and is the bigger threat to the protagonists for most of the middle part of the film, but the moment Ye Qi-shan earns his explosive comeuppance the movie continues on for another half an hour.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ruo-yun’s fate, after being outed as a political activist, and subjected to torture by Boss Tang’s minions, before Tang orders Zi-Hao to finish her off. Rather than letting Zi-Hao bear the agony of killing her, instead Ruo-yun snatches Zi-Hao’s pistol and shoots herself point-blank in the temple.
  • Elective Mute: Zi-Hao in the first fifteen minutes of the movie doesn’t say a single word, even when caught in the middle of a shootout against prison guards or is in the midst of a car chase. He finally does speak up during the banquet Boss Tang prepares for Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao as gratitude for saving his daughter.
    Boss Tang: "So tell me, what is your name?"
    Fang-Jie: "He’s a mute, he doesn’t speak at all, I tried and…"
    Zi-Hao: (Suddenly Voiced) "My name is Lee Zi-Hao." (cue surprised look on Fang-Jie)
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: As evil and rotten to the core Boss Tang is, at the end of the day he does genuinely loves his daughter and only child, Qian-Qian, and wants the best for her despite not agreeing with her decisions.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: During the two car chases that occurs in the first twenty minutes of the film, more often than not cars which are shot up enough will crash, flip over and then explode.
  • Fiery Coverup: After rescuing Qian-Qian, as well as holding Ye Qi-shan as their hostage, Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao ends up being chased into a penthouse room by several of Ye’s mooks. The trio consisting of Fang-Jie, Zi-Hao and Qian-Qian ends up performing a Super Window Jump to lose the mooks, while using a bundle of explosives to cover their escape. For bonus points, the explosives are shoved underneath a chair Ye Qi-shan is tied upon. BOOM.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao, after the prison breakout, and going through one life-threatening confrontation after another.
  • Guns Akimbo:
    • Fang-Jie does this a lot. Even while on a bicycle! note 
    • In the ending shootout, Zi-Hao wields double pistols, apparently in memory of the deceased Fang-Jie.
  • Hate Sink: Unlike most of the characters who exists somewhere between Grey-and-Gray Morality, Boss Ye Qi-shan exists to be a despicable piece of work for the audience to loathe, staying low when Boss Tang is in power, but behaving like a Smug Snake once Boss Tang ( allegedly) dies, rubbing his death over his descendants and trusted lieutenants (knowing full well they cannot do anything about it due to killings during funerals being a violation of code of honor) and then cursing Fang-Jie for his Undying Loyalty and taunting Zi-Hai before leaving. He deliberately arranges for Qian-Qian’s kidnapping, and behaves all high-and-mighty when his bodyguards are around him, even going as far as to curse Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao that they will NEVER live to see the end of the day for their rescue attempt. Well he’s wrong, they did, its Ye himself who didn’t.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Zi-Hao, after shaving his long hair and beard in prison.
  • Heal It with Booze: In the scene where Fang-Jie gets shot, Zi-Hao tends to his injuries by pouring booze in it. He does offer Fang-Jie a sip before that, but Fang-Jie declines.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: During the car chase between the horse cart Fang-Jie and Qian-Qian are riding on and several triad hitmen chasing after them, one of the enemy mooks causes Fang-Jie to fall off the cart. Fang-Jie then hijacks a civilian’s bicycle and start pedaling like crazy to catch up.
  • I Have Your Wife: I Have Your Girlfriend. Boss Ye Qi-shan, in an attempt to intimidate Fang-Jie, orders his men to kidnap Qian-Qian while she’s having a confession in church, prompting Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao to embark on a Roaring Rampage of Rescue.
  • Hidden Villain: Who would’ve thought Boss Tang, the seemingly-benevolent mentor of Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao, the kindly father of Qian-Qian, the man who Fang-Jie worships as a father figure, and was assumed to have died halfway though the film, turn out to be the nastiest and most sinister character in the entire movie?
  • In the Back: This is how Fang-Jie dies, shot by Boss Tang’s guards while engaged in conversation with Tang. Of course, it was Tang who personally ordered the execution.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: In the last few minutes of the movie, Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao had both died, and Qian-Qian lets herself be killed in her father’s place to atone for his sins. But just as Boss Tang is about to outlive the credits as a political hero, a bunch of orphans whom are friends decides to avenge Zi-Hao by delivering a gift to Boss Tang. One which hides a timebomb.
  • Kill 'Em All: Literally every named character fails to outlive the credits. Fang-Jie gets betrayed and executed, Ruo-yun is forced to kill herself, Qian-Qian allows herself to be shot in her father’s place without her father knowing, Zi-Hao is pumped full of lead when Boss Tang leads a detachment of reinforcements and saw Zi-Hao carrying his daughter’s corpse in his arms, and Boss Tang is eventually assassinated by a bomb disguised as a gift.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Qian-Qian ends up getting shot full of holes by Zi-Hao. It’s unintentional, but still.
  • Knight In Sour Armor: Zi-Hao, after losing his love and spending over a year in prison. In most scenes where he converses with the comparatively more jovial and wise-cracking Fang-Jie, Zi-Hao will remind him of the seriousness of the situation and the dire states both of them are involved.
  • Kukris Are Kool: Sometimes mooks can be seen using kukris as their sidearms. In the final action scene Zi-Hao wields a kukri to hack up mooks after running out of bullets.
  • Last Disrespects: Boss Ye Qi-shan shows up at Boss Tang’s funeral parlour, only to berate and taunt Tang by claiming he brought his fate upon himself, and even goes on to Speak Ill of the Dead in front of Tang’s daughter and foster son Fang-Jie.
  • Leap and Fire: Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao, frequently.
  • Leitmotif: Qian-Qian has her own favorite song, a Chinese folk song titled "Little Sparrow" which she is heard humming several times whenever she’s onscreen. This song notably plays in the scene after she dies.
  • Long-Lasting Last Words: In her last moments, Qian-Qian, despite being shot more than 20 times, somehow manages to utter to Zi-Hao a Dying Declaration of Love, apologize for her father’s misdeeds, state her regret over Fang-Jie’s demise, beg for Zi-Hao to not hold on to a grudge, forgive her father… her last words took over a minute to finish, far beyond anyone who just got shot multiple times could, probably just because Rule of Drama.
  • The Lost Lenore: Zi-Hao spends much of the movie pinning for his long-lost old flame, Ruo-yun, where his last memories of her is witnessing her being dragged away to be executed. Or that’s what he thought
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Boss Ye Qi-shan’s fate, after being tied to a chair which have a bundle of explosives underneath.
  • Manly Tears: Used several times in the movie, but especially the scene where Fang-Jie is forced to shoot Zi-Hao.
  • Missing Mom: Qian-Qian’s mother and Boss Tang’s wife never appears onscreen. The dialogue between father and daughter implies she may have died around a decade before the events of the movie, making her a Posthumous Character.
  • "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop: During the opera shootout, there are a few machine-gun wielding mooks who instead of entering through the side or back entrances, instead opts to smash through the skylights and drop from above while suspended on cables, firing their guns as they do so.
  • Motor Mouth: Fang-Jie, even when the person he’s conversing with (like Zi-Hao) is clearly uninterested with talking to him.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Owen, the Eurasian right-hand man of Boss Tang, who leads the mooks in the final scene when Zi-Hao is rampaging through the Tang mansion, intent on killing Boss Tang to avenge Fang-Jie. Owen actually gives Zi-Hao a seriously hard time in their one-on-one confrontation, outliving every other mook in the mansion before finally become Zi-Hao’s second-to-last kill in the movie.
  • Never Found the Body: After Fang-Jie is forced to execute Zi-Hao by shooting him (non-fatally), Zi-Hao ends up falling backwards into the Suzhou River. The next scene is Boss Tang berating Fang-Jie for not firing a fatal shot, and then saying if his body is never recovered, then Zi-Hao could very well still be alive. As it turns out, yes, Zi-Hao indeed survives the execution.
  • Not Quite Dead: Zi-Hao, despite being shot several times and falling into the Suzhou River, managed to crawl out onto a waterfront, alive (but barely). A trio of orphans he's good friends with found him and nurses him back to health while hiding from Boss Tang's minions looking for him.
  • One-Man Army: Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao takes on massive armies of mooks, notably when Fang-Jie takes on Ye Qi-shan’s guards in the auditorium shootout, and Zi-hao performing a Storming the Castle in the finale to avenge Fang-Jie’s death.
  • The Oner: The movie’s first shot of Shanghai is an uninterrupted, 50-second long take of the Bund, following a seagull flying towards the bay before zooming into the streets, past moving cars before stopping on the vehicle Boss Tang is seated in.
  • Ordered Apology: Ye Qi-shan tries to taunt Boss Tang on his funeral, right in front of Zi-Hao and Fang-Jie. For his efforts, he ends up getting his gut punched in and shoved to the floor by Fang-Jie, who then forced Ye Qi-shan to kneel in front of Boss Tang’s altar and kowtow repeatedly.
  • Pink Mist: Used repeatedly in shootouts, especially if named, important characters get shot. A fine spray of mist fills the air when Fang-Jie is forced to shoot Zi-Hao while over a pier.
  • The Precarious Ledge: After breaking free from Ye Qi-shan’s henchmen in the auditorium scene, Qian-Qian makes her escape by climbing out a window… and ends up on a narrow ledge which she needs to slowly balance her way across when several other mooks enters the room she was in.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Cheerful, happy-go-lucky Fang-Jie as the red, compared to quiet, pessimistic Zi-Hao as the blue.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Boss Tang’s death halfway in the movie… isn’t a death at all, despite having a Meaningful Funeral for him. After Ye Qi-shan gets soundly dealt with, Boss Tang reveals himself to be alive all along.
  • Rescue Romance: The untimely Love Triangle between Fang-Jie, Qian-Qian and Zi-Hao starts the moment Zi-Hao interrupts an assassination attempt on her life.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The confessional scene in a church where Zi-Hao and Ruo-yun have a heartfelt, emotional conversation also includes a lingering, extensive close-up of a bronze statue of Jesus Christ, with his arms widespread, right outside the church. The shot of Zi-Hao and Ruo-yun walks out is framed to look like both of them are being embraced into Jesus’ arms.
  • Skewed Priorities: After Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao made it out of the prison and are being pursued by a detachment of guards, Zi-Hao opts to make an improvised escape route by lifting a manhole cover. Fang-Jie protests that given his reputation, he will become a laughingstock among other triad mobsters for crossing the sewers, nevermind the amount of armed guards who’s pursuing him. Zi-Hao is unamused and drags him into the sewer-hole.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: The romance between Fang-Jie and Qian-Qian, as well as Zi-Hao and Ruo-yun.
  • The Stoic: Zi-Hao. Even after he reveals that he can speak all along, he still doesn't talk much or show expressions. He becomes Not So Stoic after seeing Ruo-yun being tortured, and killing herself.
  • Throwing the Distraction: Fang-Jie, being pinned down under heavy fire from Ye Qi-shan's mooks, manage to distract his opponents by flinging a dead mook out of his cover, then jumping out and firing while the mooks shoots at a dead body.
  • Trauma Swing: Qian-Qian, after her father’s supposed death, on the swing she frequently swings with her father by her side while humming the same song her father taught her as a child.
  • Unconventional Vehicle Chase: Between a horse-drawn carriage, cars full of mobsters, and Fang-Jie on a stolen bicycle.
  • Unwilling Suspension:
    • Zi-Hao, in his first scene, is strung from his wrists by chains in a prison courtyard. Which he breaks free from a few moments later.
    • Ruo-yun’s eventual fate after her connections with the political dissidents are exposed, where she ends up being tortured, beaten up, and hung with ropes.
    • Hang on, here’s a third… the fate of Mr. Tanaka after Boss Tang took over, being beaten up and hung from a ceiling. His ultimate fate is never shown.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Zi-Hao exposes his abs in more than one scene, including when being imprisoned early in the movie and later as Qian-Qian is tending to his gunshot wounds.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: A variation, but Fang-Jie and Zi-Hao, the two main characters, first meets each other in the same prison, albeit in different cells. Fang-Jie is breaking out on his own while sneaking into Zi-Hao’s cell trying to escape some guards, and inevitably both of them ends up escaping together.
  • You Talk Too Much: After the scene where a wounded Fang-Jie is tended to by Zi-Hao, Fang-Jie tries quipping as he usually does. Leading to this exchange…
    Fang-Jie: (talking through labored breath, while bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound) "I took the bullet for you. I hope you deserved it. You know, you treat your brothers better than you treat women... you don't know how much she (Qian-Qian) loves you. Woman needs love, and care, trust me for I have the experience and…"
    Zi-Hao: "Are you done?"
    Fang-Jie: "Yes, why?"
    (knocks out Fang-Jie with a single punch)


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