Rebels of the Neon God
|Rebels of the Neon God|
English-language DVD cover
|Directed by||Tsai Ming-liang|
|Produced by||Hsu Li-kong|
|Written by||Tsai Ming-liang|
|Music by||Huang Shu-jun|
|Edited by||Wang Chi-yang|
127 minutes (Canada)
Rebels of the Neon God (Chinese: 青少年哪吒; pinyin: Qīngshàonián Nézhā; lit.: 'Teenage Nezha') is a 1992 Taiwanese drama film written and directed by Tsai Ming-liang in his feature film directorial debut. It stars Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Chao-jung, and Jen Chang-bin.
A young man named Hsiao Kang attends a cram school and lives with his parents. In a parallel story line, Ah Tze and Ah Ping are petty thieves. After a night out, Ah Tze returns to his flooded apartment. The next morning, he meets Ah Kuei, a young woman who had just had a one-night stand in the neighboring room with Ah Tze's brother, a car salesman. Ah Kuei does not know where she is, and Ah Tze gives her a ride on his motorcycle. Meanwhile, Hsiao Kang's motorcycle is impounded. His father, a taxi driver, spots him and gives him a ride to school, hoping to bond with his son. During an altercation in traffic, Ah Tze intentionally breaks the side mirror on Hsiao Kang's father's taxi.
Ah Tze, Ah Ping, and Ah Kuei hang out together at night and get drunk. Ah Kuei passes out, and the two men leave her in a hotel room. In the morning, Ah Kuei calls Ah Tze and asks to see him again. Hsiao Kang drops out of his school and gets a refund. Rather than going home, he stays out, runs into Ah Tze, and stalks him for awhile. Hsiao Kang watches Ah Tze and Ah Ping rob an arcade by taking motherboards out of arcade machines.
Ah Tze meets Ah Kuei, and she is angry that he stood her up. The two get a hotel room and have sex. Meanwhile, Hsiao Kang finds Ah Tze's motorcycle and vandalizes it. Hsiao Kang then tries to return home after being away for a few days, but his parents, who discovered that he dropped out of school, refuse to let him in. He ends up staying in the same hotel where Ah Tze and Ah Kuei spent the night and watches gleefully as Ah Tze discovers his trashed bike.
Later, Ah Tze and Ah Ping try to sell the stolen motherboards to an arcade owner, but the men whom they stole from confront them. The men chase them into the street and beat up Ah Ping. That night, Ah Tze brings Ah Ping back to the apartment. Ah Kuei also shows up there. She tells Ah Tze that she wants to leave with him, and the two embrace. Hsiao Kang pays to use a phone dating service but does not answer any calls. After sitting there, he leaves.
- Lee Kang-sheng as Hsiao Kang
- Chen Chao-jung as Ah Tze
- Jen Chang-bin as Ah Ping
- Wang Yu-wen as Ah Kuei
- Lu Yi-ching as Hsiao Kang's mother
- Miao Tien as Hsiao Kang's father
Rebels of the Neon God was Tsai Ming-liang's first feature film. He had taken a liking to actor Lee Kang-sheng when the two worked together on a television film. At the time, Lee was studying for college entrance exams. Tsai later said, "It was by spending time with Hsiao Kang as he went through the whole experience that I decided that I wanted to make a simple film about a kid trying to get into college, which became Rebels of the Neon God. I wanted to explore what a kid would do if he couldn't get in. Where would he go? What would he do?"
The Taiwanese title refers to Nezha, a powerful child god in Chinese classical mythology who was born into a human family. Nezha is impulsive and disobedient. He tries to kill his father, but is brought under control when a Taoist immortal (Nezha's spiritual mentor) gives the father a miniature pagoda that enables him to control his rebellious son. This resonates in the film a number of ways: Hsiao Kang's mother believes that he is Nezha reincarnated, and Tze and Ping try to pawn off some stolen goods to an arcade proprietor named Nezha. Before the pawning of the stolen goods, Hsiao Kang vandalizes Tze's motorcycle, including graffiti stating "Here is Nezha."
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 100% based on 32 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.55/10. The site's consensus reads: "Rebels of the Neon God announces writer-director Ming-liang Tsai as a fully formed talent -- and remains one of the more accomplished debuts of the decade". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 82 out of 100 based on 10 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
The film won a Golden Horse Award for Best Original Score, a Prize of the City of Torino for Best Film at the Torino International Festival of Young Cinema, and the Bronze Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival.