Second Chance (2014) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would be PG-13 for some violence, language and suggestive conent
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Wen Shang-Yi, Peijia Huang, Jason Wang, Jasper Liu, Phoebe Huang, Angel Yao, Michael Chang
Director: Wen-yen (Yann) Kung
Screenplay: Chi-alu Chang
Review published January 31, 2015
Next to baseball, the game of billiards has become Taiwan's most popular sport, with many Taiwanese players now ranking among the best to hold a cue stick in the world. It was only a matter of time before we saw a feature movie coming from the country, and with Second Chance, it has arrived.
Wen Shang-Yi (aka "Monster" from the rock group Mayday) makes his big-screen debut, playing Feng, a former professional billiards champ who has been down and out for the last several years, thanks to too much drinking, too much gambling, and too much fear of playing the game that made him sensation. When Feng's niece, Shine (Huang), finds herself an orphan, he heads back home to adopt her and help take over the family-owned billiards hall that they are in risk of losing because they can't repay the debt owed on the place. Unable to play to gain the money needed in a short amount of time, Feng decides to mentor young Shine on how to be the best of the best, hoping that winning the top prize in am international billiards competition will cover what's owed.
Though it does take a while to hit its groove, Second Chance comes alive once we finally get to the green felt action of billiards, especially in the exciting, music-video way that director Yann Kung manages to bring the visual appeal of the sport to life. The pop-rock soundtrack kicks in, including Monster's own original song for the film, "9-Ball", and about a half-dozen repeats of Roxette's international hit, "The Look" (an odd choice, but it works in the context of the film).
The likeable cast makes the most of stock characters, with Peijia Huang a standout as Shine, who takes on the best in Women's Billiards to try to come out ahead. The scenes of actual pool playing features a bit of CGI and camera tricks, but they are rendered well enough to look real, while the slick camera work jibes well with the soundtrack to generate some sizzle. The plot is pure underdog-made-good story, which will be no surprise to anyone who has seen their share of sports flicks from the 1980s and 1990s. I suppose the fact that it is about billiards, and it's a Taiwanese film, will help to distinguish it from the rest of the pack.
On the downside, the movie isn't especially funny as a comedy, and the Taipei mob debt collectors angle isn't dramatically appealing, though it does allow for Shang-Yi, an avid amateur pool player himself, to bang a few balls around in the extended finale for all the marbles.
Featuring a slew of actual international pool champs, including Jennifer Barretta, Allison Fisher, Kelly Fisher, Jasmin Ouschan and more, Second Chance will likely appeal more to billiards aficionados than the average filmgoer. However, those who just like sports flicks in all its formulaic flavors should find Second Chance worth giving at least one chance.
©2015 Vince Leo