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September 22, 2017

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Jump Ashin! (翻滾吧!阿信)

A story about loss, redemption and coming-of-age, "Jump Ashin!" (翻滾吧!阿信) split its soul into so many pieces for maximum commercial appeal that it eventually reminds us of Harry Potter's Voldemort, whose soul degenerated because he split it into seven pieces to bid for power and immortality.

Ashin (阿信), our hero, grew up in Yilan County (宜蘭) during the 1980s; he is the elder of two sons raised by a single mother. As a child, Ashin's natural agility drew him to start practicing with the school's gymnastics team. Yet his mother increasingly expected him to be more involved in the family fruit stand business, and quit gymnastics.

Suddenly without a focus in life, Ashin took to street-fighting with his best buddy, Pickle (菜脯). They eventually miffed other local gangsters, including another young man known as Papaya (木瓜). Papaya started manipulating Pickle by supplying him amphetamine, and Pickle soon started craving the drug enough to do anything for more of it. Matters then spiraled out of control when Pickle killed a man during a brawl; now the duo, Ashin and Pickle, seemed to have no way back to their previous life.

Although billed as a gymnastics drama, about half of "Jump Ashin!" is actually about how Ashin, played by Eddie Peng (彭于晏), and Pickle, played by Ke Yulun (柯宇綸), wandered deeper into the world of gangsters and crime. Ke made the character of Pickle complex and vulnerable enough for us to feel more for him than outright disapproval. Meanwhile, Ashin's romance with the mysterious, sweet-voiced pager receptionist, played by Lin Chenxi (林辰唏), works well because Peng successfully projects Ashin's old fashioned, if not geeky, sex appeal.

After Pickle killed a man in a brawl, Ashin fled Yilan with him to Taipei, the big city. Scenes set under neon lights and in nightclubs succeed in creating a sense of warped space, in contrast with Yilan's pastoral blue sky and green fields. And although the duo's prolonged detour in gangster-land felt meandering, it at least had the fantastic effect of making Ashin's return to gymnastics surprisingly intense. Compared to the convoluted jungle ethics of the criminal world, the elegance and single-mindedness of gymnastics seems almost holy.

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