New York Asian Film Festival ’18: Our Review Of ‘The Empty Hands’

New York Asian Film Festival ’18: Our Review Of ‘The Empty Hands’

The Empty Hands tells the story of former childhood karate prodigy and current grownup slacker, Mari Hirakawa (Stephy Tang). As a kid, Mari kicked all kinds of ass before suffering her first defeat and quitting karate. Completely turning her back on karate wasn’t an option. First off, her father (Yasuaki Kurata) trained her, and second, they also lived in his dojo. Now grown up, Mari still isn’t on great terms with her father. He looks down on her long-running affair with a married man. So, it comes as a wakeup call when her dad kicks the bucket before they patch things up and Mari’s left to run the failing dojo. Her crafty father only leaves her 49% of the dojo with 51% going to Chan Kent (Chapman To), a former student with a checkered past. The duo must coexist under one roof long enough to sort out their uncomfortable arrangement.

The Empty Hands craps the bed on every level. Its worst offences are the sleep-inducing characters and lackadaisical pacing – I swear 35% of the screen time is people sitting down eating noodles. There isn’t one likeable or even interesting character in this film which makes spending time in this world a chore. The supporting characters are so dull and inconsequential you could cut them from the film without changing the plot. As for the pacing, this film creeps along at the speed of an arthritic sloth. IMDb says this picture is only 87-minutes long, but it feels like watching The Ten Commandments back to back.

The Empty Hands tells us that even as circumstances outside Mari’s control derail her life, her toughest obstacle remains herself. That’s an uplifting and relatable message. This life-affirming drama conveys some positive themes but it’s too bad they’re baked into such a poorly constructed film.

This post was written by
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).
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