The neighbourhood is dark, and dangerous.
Life is tough, there. Police don’t even exist. Drug dealers and mobs all over the place. There’s a little gym, a little Chinese restaurant, and the moon doesn’t seem to shine over that part of town. Whoever had designed the place had promised tennis courts and swimming pools that had never been built. And the whole area is now in the hands of a loan shark, Kong, who makes legal and illegal deals, acts as a benefactor, but in the end keeps everyone under his control with his
It’s Kong who makes loans to little restaurants, to the gyms, and even to higher class people. He talks, for instance, with General Lee, a high-class man, who strives to keep up appearances but is almost broke, being a widow and the father of a beautiful daughter, Portia.
Kong lends money to General Lee for his various affairs and his businesses and his properties, that diminish every day before his very eyes. Kong talks to Bao, chef and owner of the little Chinese restaurant, and the father of two siblings: Liu (male, 25, very athletic) and Xiu (a beautiful girl and sensational singer, age 22).
Kong also talks with lower class people, and controls the workmen, the nurses, the porters as well as the prostitutes and the pushers. Lending money is his core business anyway. A real holy man, you’ve got it.
Kong has hired Claudio (25), the son of Carmela (60), a widow and former elementary school teacher who now survives with his retirement pension and by washing floors. Claudio hates Kong, and he almost enjoys this hatred. After all, everybody hates him. And Kong almost seems to nourish himself with this general hostility, that he transforms into money, business and crime, depending on the circumstances.
Claudio was born in Tufello, Italy; he is 25 and his mother is Carmen (60), his father is unknown and his eyes are dark as coal. Searching for a family and the father he has never had, Claudio has only one single burning desire: for his mother to stop working as a waitress. He lives with the sensation of not having had the right destiny for the body and the brain he has. He merely gets by managing his little bike repair shop, and then he goes to the gym, where he trains practicing Kung Fu, in his spare time.
Claudio has trouble with any form of authority. He’s got a motorbike that’s always with him, and that he always parks badly and drives worse. When your style is perfection, you become dangerous. And a policeman will not understand. Liu, on the other hand, is Chinese, the same age as Claudio, and with an identical rage, though for different reasons. His father, Bao, is the chef of the little Chinese restaurant, and everybody sees Liu only as the son of a cook. He has a sister, Xiu, who is a fantastic singer, and he has a dream too: to win an international Kung Fu competition.
It’s been some time since Kong understood that his business in the little neighbourhood has become too small for his ambitions. He’s got a lot of money now. One of his clients is Slotty, a very rich and nasty American business man, who sniffs cocaine and owns a hotel chain including a real gem, the Pantheon Hotel. For a while, Kong has been wondering if he should go on supplying cocaine to
Slotty, or just kill him instead, and become the owner of everything he has. And one night, pretending he’s just making another cocaine delivery, he enters and in a Godfather-like scene he kills him and all of his men.
At this point, Kong knows perfectly well that when you kill somebody and take his business, you must do something magnificent, to win people’s approval and clean up your image. You have to present a new face. You must hire people and take on new habits and make a show of new friends.
And so, in three days, he spreads the rumour that at the Pantheon Hotel there is a fantastic new owner who hires people and pays well. Very well. And that in every department, from the kitchens up to the night club, help is needed and interviews are being held.
Right from the beginning of the selection of those who will join the staff of the Pantheon, Claudio and Liu already hate each other sincerely.
It is clear that they are both two dominant characters, two alpha males, inside two bodies with different skin.
And each of them is a natural born leader. It’s rather normal that after two or three cruel trials, they are both hired, and both are put under the strict surveillance of Chien, the head of staff, who is himself black belt of Kung Fu, with a rather reprehensible spirit!
Now, at the general rehearsal of the hotel’s big band we are also presented Xiu, daughter of the chef, Bao.
Xiu is as beautiful as a sunrise. White skin. Perfect breasts. Long sweet legs. The girl is rather frantic, anyway. For instance, she doesn’t believe in love. She is constantly followed by four body guards, has a tendency to shoot herself in incredible underwater selfies. She also writes beautiful songs, but never finds the right music for them. In her group there are many pushers, but she doesn’t use any drugs. She only drinks a little. She is dangerous, without a soul, because she never loved anybody, and everybody wants to make her their wife.
Liu succeeds in getting work as a Kung Fu instructor at the gym. The final test for the job is an astonishing match between himself and Claudio, who loses and only gets employed as a waiter. Liu mocks Claudio, but deep inside he knows that he has never met such a great fighter.
Therefore, Claudio only has a part time job and returns to his neighbourhood, to deal with old motorbikes during the day, and then at night going back to the Pantheon Hotel where he works as a waiter. And there, he sees Xiu singing.
In the meantime, Kong, in order to launch the new Pantheon to new heights, mobilizes his more important friendships and relationships.
He speaks to General Lee and promises to resolve all of his financial problems, if he will organize a Kung Fu World Championship at the Pantheon. General Lee agrees. Liu comes to know about that. He goes directly to Kong’s office and asks him to be his primary sponsor. He thinks he can win the world championships. Kong laughs in his face. Liu insists that he, an absolute nobody, can win the title. Kong is on the point of firing him as a gym teacher but then he thinks twice about it.
Perhaps if he is the benefactor of an unknown athlete who wins a title or at least does well… Maybe this is exactly what he needs to improve his public image, and to keep a certain distance from the illegal affairs he is usually associated with by the media.
In the end Liu doesn’t ask too much. Kong accepts the deal. He will sponsor him. Liu will go on teaching and then after work he will keep training for the world championship.
Liu will also have his own trainer and his own doctor, he will observe a strict diet, and will be paid by Kong. Liu is the happiest man on earth. He doesn’t know he has just signed a pact with the devil.
Then night falls and, in her first class bed, Xiu hears someone playing the piano. Who can it be?
The night club is closed now. And that music seems to speak directly to her soul. Xiu wakes up, dresses herself quickly and goes downstairs… but nobody knows anything about the piano player.
There are only some traces of motorbike grease on the piano, when Carmela comes to clean the room in the early morning.
That music has stolen Xiu’s heart. And she wants to know who played it. She speaks to her father, but on that day, Bao has something else to tell her.
Kong, in person, has asked Bao for Xiu’s hand in marriage! And one of the reasons is that Kong has just given Bao the management of the Pantheon’s on-site restaurant. The other is that Kong also sponsors Liu as a Kung Fu champion. Nobody in this situation would turn him down. But Xiu doesn’t love Kong.
Nevertheless, Bao hasn’t got the strength to reveal his daughter’s real intentions to Kong. Kong tells him, with his typical arrogance, that he has just spent three hundred thousand euros to buy her a diamond ring. And that he will declare himself to Xiu at the Pantheon’s restaurant, in front of everyone, that very evening.
– Could you wait a while?
– Time is money.
And so that very night Kong makes his declaration to Xiu, while Claudio serves at their table as a waiter. He hears with his own ears all of his boss’s clumsy attempts to gain the girl’s interest. Or to arouse her feelings. And at the end of a dinner filled with diamonds and lobsters and promises of glory… Xiu refuses him so gently that his heart almost breaks. In any case, in the end Kong must accept a ‘no’. Xiu takes time…
The next day, Kong severely threatens Bao.
He has been humiliated and now wants Bao to convince his daughter or he will fire him on the spot. And besides that, Liu will also not be allowed to participate in the world championship organized at the Pantheon if Xiu continues to refuse Kong.
Despite all that, and despite all the efforts of Liu and Bao to convince her to make more reasonable decisions, Liu does not change her mind. She will only marry a man that she really loves.
And Claudio wants to be that man. But there is a long distance between the motorbike repair shop and the Pantheon ballroom. Claudio decides to take out a loan. And he guarantees the loan with all of his bikes.
He gets the money from a loan shark (one of Kong’s guys), and then enters the most expensive tailor shop in Rome. The tailor, Valentino Valentini, and his assistants are now at his disposal. In a few days, in his hands, Claudio becomes by far the most elegant guy in town.
Aristocrats and millionaires who had looked down on him with disdain in the previous days, are now wondering who that mysterious prince walking through the Pantheon ballroom might be.
Where is he heading? And why did he never show up till this moment? Some of them whisper that probably he is that handsome Danish prince, whose father was killed in an accident, the heir of a castle in Spain.
That night, in the ballroom, the Danish prince appears, and Xiu, for the first time, notices the presence of someone interesting. She falls in love instantly. Even if it’s only for one night, Claudio can afford to spend a lot of money. Some of his waiter friends recognize him and help him to play the role of the Danish prince. There are moments of very funny comedy between princesses, Kong, loan sharks and waiters… and the Danish prince.
Even in the kitchens rumours circulate about a charming stranger in the ballroom, someone never seen before, who just invited Xiu to dance, right in front of Kong!
– My daughter will never dance with anybody! She hates everyone… And she hates mankind. And she hates me!
But an old waitress insists:
– There’s a guy she doesn’t hate at all. And she is dancing with him.
Just like in a fairy tale, Claudio and Xiu dance in front of everyone. He really looks like a prince.
Xiu enjoys the taste of happiness. And her father, looking at them from his kitchen, regrets his manners and swears he will never accept any more of Kong’s offers (hoping that this Danish prince will at least be rich enough). He doesn’t know how poor that prince really is!
Kong immediately understands that has to confront the new handsome Danish prince. He challenges him with his words, laughing at him, mocking him, and then he shows off his riches, his bravery…
He challenges him again. Which of them will drink more vodka and remain standing? After 42 glasses of vodka, guess who falls on the ground? Yes, Kong himself. And now the two young lovers are ready to fly away in their first night together…
In the most beautiful places of Rome, the two lovers live unforgettable moments, under the stars.
Claudio is not going to hurry; he makes her laugh. Together they see a flock of seagulls dancing in the moonlight. Free.
At dawn they are still together, and before kissing her, he tells her the truth. No Danish prince. Just a poor waiter, with a passion for motorbikes. But she doesn’t care. And for the first time they make love, in a little room, in the poorest neighbourhood of Rome.
The next day, Kong has Bao beaten fiercely. Liu defends his father. Kong laughs at him, bitterly.
There is another man in that little neighbourhood who is stronger than him. And who has also stolen his sister in front of everybody. Liu swears he’s going to find him. But Kong’s rage is uncontrollable. He kills Bao, drowning him in the big lobster tank right in the middle of the main room of the closed restaurant.
– Find the Danish prince… Or you’re going to end up in the same way.
Later, in Xiu’s apartment, Liu threatens his sister. She must find the Danish prince and turn him over.
Xiu asks him how he could ever keep working for the same man who killed his father, but at this moment in Liu’s heart the ambition of becoming the number one Kung Fu champion in the world is stronger than any other feeling.
He tells his sister that their father was wrong in believing in her feelings. Their only chance is to obey Kong, and win the championship. And especially now that their father is dead. Xiu already has complicated things enough by not marrying him, something that Liu wants her to reconsider. Taking sides against Kong is pure madness. And Xiu is mad enough.
Claudio, in the meantime, is beaten up by the guys who want to get back the money they lent him for the Danish prince suit. Claudio has to take part in an illegal motorcycle race, and win the prize, to give the money back to them. The breathless ride runs across open fields, over highways, and through a river. Some of Claudio’s opponents die challenging him, and in the end Claudio wins a lot of money, but barely sufficient to keep him out of the loan shark’s hands. He’s poor, as always, but alive.
That night, Xiu sings, and she has never been so beautiful.
No one notices that one of her usual bodyguards has been substituted. And Liu is now wearing his clothes. When Claudio gets close to her, he sees a tear in her eyes. But it’s too late. The ambush kicks off. Claudio fights, downs two bodyguards, but in the end he has to surrender. He’s led in chains to a secret cell in the hotel, since no police will hold an enemy of Kong’s in a legal cell.
A place for him is found under the swimming pool, near exotic animals. A strange, incredible place.
Now, Carmela, Claudio’s mother, is in despair. Her son has disappeared. Ironically, she goes to Kong’s office, to ask him for justice! Kong pretends to be a benefactor and does what he does best: he lies.
– Your son has abandoned you. I will take care of you. My men have seen him at the airport, with horrible drug dealers. I will find him and keep him on the right path. Don’t worry.
Carmela’s tears of gratitude only nourish Kong’s vanity. He also offers her a promotion…
That same afternoon, Portia enters the Pantheon’s gym. Beautiful, aristocratic, white skin, long fingers. She is General Lee’s daughter. She’s there only for some fitness exercise, but when she’s done, she sees her trainer fighting, while training for the world championship! That trainer is Liu, and she’s just fallen in love with him.
The championship gets closer. Tickets are sold for a fortune. Kong speaks to the press. He loves sport, youth… Not crime… That night, Xiu has just ended her concert. She is told, by one of Liù’s ex-lovers, where Claudio is being held prisoner. She reaches him just when he’s on the edge of despair. He does not even want to talk to her, he doesn’t know if he can trust the girl he loves. She convinces him: she had to betray him, otherwise they would have killed him. Now they have the time to study a plan. The best moment to escape forever is going to be when the final match of the world championship starts.
They will take action on that day.
That night, Portia announces to her father that she has finally found the man she wants to marry. It is that young trainer at the gym. General Lee turns pale. He is a trainer at the gym. The son of a cook. And now just like Liu despises Claudio, General Lee despises Liu.
The General swears he will never allow his only daughter to marry a dishwasher! Portia declares that if she’s not going to marry Liu she wants to go and close herself in a monastery.
General Lee will present other men to her in the following days. A prince. An entrepreneur. A bank owner. A builder. Portia kindly refuses everybody. And after that, she makes her father an offer he can’t refuse.
If Liu wins the Kung Fu World Championship, General Lee will have to give up and let Portia marry him. If Liu does not win the championship, she will accept any other choice made by the General himself.
Lee accepts this deal. He’s sure that a nobody, a mere teacher in a gym, can never become the number one Kung Fu world champion overnight…
…but then he secretly goes to the gym telling everybody he has to get into shape. Liu knows him. And then he fights, while training with his friends, as always. General Lee turns pale again. That young trainer is awesome. So he decides to resort to a trick in order to get rid of him. He goes to Kong, and tells him that if Liu ever wins the championship, their business partnership will automatically cease. Kong tries to persuade him. The guy is without hope. And on the other hand, if he ever won, it would be by a stroke of luck. Ha has been trained to succeed…
Lee is unmovable. Liu can reach the final match. Then he will have to lose. Legally or illegally. The world championship starts with a huge ceremony. Athletes from all over the world are coming to Rome, to the Pantheon. Journalists, bankers, sponsors, business men, trainers…. Everybody wants a room at the Pantheon. And the championship starts.
Every night, after singing at the bar, Xiu comes to the cell under the pool. She loves Claudio tenderly and tells him everything about the championships. Details about the art of fighting that only the sister of a great champion can notice.
But one night, she is followed by Liu and his men. It is the night planned for the escape. Claudio is chased. He fights. Liu sees him. And for the second time he is impressed. Claudio is fighting alone against 10 men, and he is defeating them one by one. He is a great champion but he doesn’t know it.
He personally confronts him. Liu defeats Claudio for the second time, but this time, he almost had to surrender.
– Where did you learn? – he has to ask.
– In the best gym. Life.
– You can go… But don’t come back, and stay away from my sister. Forever.
In the following days Liu defeats every opponent with amazing ease. The press starts writing about this incredible outsider. Kong makes money with the guy’s sponsors. Portia starts hoping for the best. And the day of the final match arrives, to the despair of a worried General Lee.
The night before the final match, Xiu is mysteriously kidnapped and this news reaches the ears of her brother. Liu goes to Kong asking for explanations, and Kong tells him not to worry. The person responsible for the kidnapping is Claudio. Liu swears that this time he will kill him.
The truth is that it was General Lee who kidnapped Xiu, throwing the guilt on Claudio, to reinforce the hate between Claudio and Liu, and give Liu a reason for showing weakness during the final match. He doesn’t want Liu to win despite all of the warnings.
Kong himself orders Liu:
– You must loose, or I will kill you.
Liu goes in these tormented conditions towards the final match. If he wins, he will die. If he loses, he will lose his honour, all of his dreams, and Portia’s hand.
General Lee himself reveals his conspiracy to Liu a few minutes before the final match. He also lies about Portia’s true feelings.
– My daughter will never love a poor man. You’d better save your life.
And during that conversation General Lee also manages to make Liu drink a powerful sleeping drug:
– Fight now if you can.
Liu will have to fight against everybody, risking his sister’s death, and sedated as well. And even if he wins, he will die. In these terrible conditions he reaches the tatami of the final match. Portia, who is there hoping that her beloved Liu will do his very best, sees him fighting very weakly… And cries. That man is refusing her. Liu sees her, from under a mask of blood. He tries to react anyway, but the poison is strong.
Hidden among the other members of the staff, Claudio watches the final match and… jumps down into the arena.
Furtively, Claudio reaches the tatami zone. He speaks to Liu and understands that he has been drugged. He tells Liu he has just freed Xiu. He can win if he wants to. Liu hates him, but this time he has to listen. Claudio manages to put on Liu’s uniform and reaches his place on the tatami taking advantage of a general blackout in the Pantheon to do so in just a few seconds!
Nobody but Xiu now knows that there is someone else fighting the championship.
And that evening Claudio wins. Portia smiles again. General Lee is ready to kill Xiu, and sets out after her. Believing he has found her, he shoots an unrecognizable body tied in chains… but it’s Kong! The General must surrender…
Liu now goes to the tatami only to receive the Cup. Claudio has conquered Xiu, as well as Liu’s eternal gratitude. The world claims a new champion, Liu Ping. The world champion, and Portia’sspouse. The mob, for a while, will look for another king, but this only happens in fairy tales…
Story for a film by: