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What happens when the screen becomes a lectern. Without benefit of so much as one acclimatizing image or inaugural character to provide footing, even before a title hits the screen the filmmaker’s intent is clearly spelled out for us: “School bullying is a worldwide phenomenon… We hope this film will engage and unite us against bullying.” Note to director Derek Tsang: even if a bully should accidentally happen to stumble across your movie, it would no doubt be unintentional. And the chances are good that he or she would identify with and cheer on the ruffians. A scream punctuates the mundanity of the school day. Did its source fall to her death, or was she pushed? Her assailants notwithstanding, Chen Nian (Dongyu Zhou) was the last classmate to see the victim alive. Add to the bullying the pressure of studying for the National College Entrance exams — the two subplots never coalesce — and Chen, herself the target of unwarranted aggression, is about to crack from the pressure. It’s while Chen witnesses a beating that she attempts to call the cops. You’ve heard of a “meet cute”? This is a meet brute. The assailants spot her and in an attempt to humiliate their victim, Xiao Bei (Jackson Yee), they force Chen to kiss him. With no one to turn to and her study habits greatly diminished by all the misery, Chen hires Xiao to be her bodyguard. Raise your hand if you’re in favor of bullying. Those whose arms remain at their side are free to spend a better day at the multiplex. (2019) — Scott Marks

Rated NR | 2 hours, 15 minutes
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