Month: June 2012

Men Suddenly in Love (猛男滾死隊)

This is a bad movie. It’s not worth a trickle of the brainpower that I am about to waste in writing this review. That’s because this is not what anyone should be calling a movie, just like one would not call a Harry Potter fanfiction a book, or even a pamphlet. And really, don’t delude yourself; this is writer/director/producer Wong Jing’s fanfiction. It’s the world he and his band of mostly middle-aged, rotund companions can only inhibit on celluloid. He’s managed to masquerade it as a legitimate film when really it is just an excuse for him and his friends to fondle a harem of busty women.

The recklessness with which the five male leads pursue such ladies sets Wong’s latest endeavor apart from previous mediocre efforts, of which there are many. He borrows from the Men Suddenly in Black formula of unfaithful husbands trying to outwit their stern wives but leaves out the sharp humor and parody. He does, however, manage to offend half the population and right thinking men who reject chauvinistic overtures. In place of the hammy and hilarious Brother Nine (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) is the randy Master Jude (Richard Ng), an institution at the local secondary school for inspiring generations of young men to indulge in their adolescent desires. A mismatched assemblage of his former pupils (Eric Tsang, Wong Jing, Jim Chim, Chapman To, and Tat Dik) help him celebrate his eightieth birthday just north of the border. They invite the Four Heavenly Boobs (Carol Yeung, Jessica Xu, Caroline Zhu, and leader Chrissie Chau) and a boob-in-training (Betrys Kong) to his party where, overcome with passion, the beloved mentor expires. Just as he departs though, the good teacher commands his students to commemorate him by screaming his name when having sex.

Well, they don’t, and the master is largely forgotten for the remainder of the film, as are any meaningful attempts at narrative. Instead, the movie rolls from one puerile antic to another, mostly involving outsized mammaries. Wong throws in some jokes involving statutory rape, the online auctioning of a girl’s virginity, and 3D porn, but the film mainly sticks with what he, and every fifteen year old boy, likes best – breasts. He more than drives the point home that they are to be touched, displayed, and lusted after, whether on a shapely ingenue or an equally well-endowed long-time spouse.

The general absence of acting also makes this movie particularly distasteful. In a suspicious bit of casting, Wong, who seems to have graduated from the Jimmy Fallon School of Acting, appears as a giddy gynecologist. He does little more than parrot his lines, which satisfies his own requirements as director and producer. He is in good company though as few in this troupe possess legitimate filmic credentials. At one point, Jim Chim’s character, an award-winning actor, blames the sorry state of Hong Kong film on amateur starlets who can neither sing, act, nor enunciate. I don’t know if Wong was aiming for irony, but it’s what he got.

Prod: Wong Jing 王晶
Dir: Wong Jing 王晶
Writer: Wong Jing 王晶
Cast: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai 曾志偉; Jim Chim Sui-Man 詹瑞文; Wong Jing 王晶; Chapman To Man-Chat 杜汶澤; Tat Dik 狄易達; Chrissie Chau Sau-Na 周秀娜; Carol Yeung Tsz-Yiu 楊梓瑤; Jessica Xu Zi-Xian 徐自賢; Caroline Zhu Yu-Lin 朱裕琳; Betrys Kong Yi 江怡; Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee 張可頤; Monica Chan Fat-Yung 陳法蓉; Mak Ling-Ling 麥玲玲; Jacquelin Ch’ng Si-Man 莊思敏; Harriet Yeung Sze-Man 楊詩敏; Richard Ng Yiu-Hon 吳耀漢; Alex Jazz Lam Tsz-Sin 林子善
Time: 89 min
Lang: Cantonese
Reviewed: 2012

Wonderful Partners (雞鳴狗盜)

Greed, theft, extortion, adultery, usury, and property developers – the makings of a true Hong Kong movie. While some things have changed since this film’s 1960 release – one rarely breaks and enters by shimmying up a drainpipe, for example, much remains constant. Lovers still engage in dangerous liaisons and Hong Kong real estate continues to lure overseas investors. And another steadfast presence in the city – the poor, who seem perpetually fixed to their lot. It is in this familiar landscape of class injustice that Wonderful Partners lives up to its Union Studio billing. The company, led by cinematic Renaissance man Ng Cho-Fan, famously championed the slogan, “All for one, and one for all,” and that spirit is on full display here. Ng and his very capable Union cohorts Cheung Ying, Yung Siu-Yi, and Tsi Lo-Lin turn out a sometimes preachy but ultimately satisfying comedy based on Si Tak’s (史得) novel of the same name.

Trumpeted as a Robin Hood-esque adventure by the Hong Kong Film Archive, the movie stars Ng as the righteous Brother Seven, who isn’t beyond a little thievery in the name of justice. He decides to help a young couple, Yu (Yung) and her lover Hong (Cheung), though not before sneaking some of their fine jewelry. Yu is a kept woman of Hong’s boss, the crotchety Mr. Chan (Lam Kwun-Shan), and he has forced her to sign an agreement to remain with him. To ensure she complies, he keeps the document locked in a massive vault that happens to sit at the edge of a treacherous cliff. The trio, along with Brother Seven’s sympathetic neighbor Lin (Tsi), concoct a plan to steal it back. What follows is a classic heist refreshingly simple in its execution. The group carries out their scheme with a flurry of diversions, a tool belt, and some serious chutzpah. For an audience addicted to flashy technology, it is riveting to see a break-in unencumbered by night vision goggles, heat detectors, and various other Bond-like gadgets.

The film charges a little too quickly ahead in the third act though and trades some of its smart physical comedy for some Union moralizing, as par for the course. With Chan now on the chase, Brother Seven is willing to go to the extremes to ensure that property developing, women hoarding scoundrels don’t continue to “poison society.” He is righteous to a fault, which is probably the type of person Hong Kong needs more of. The people he fights for are not overly tragic characters; they are folks who simply cannot be because of the greed of others. They must turn to theft to reclaim what is already theirs, and that makes the title so fitting. It roughly translates into resorting to cheap tricks, which is precisely what the poor in Hong Kong, on film and otherwise, must do in order to combat the deceit of the rich.

Released: 1960
Dir: Ng Wui 吳回
Writer: Union Screenwriters and Directors Committee 中聯編導委員會
Original Story: Si Tak 史得
Cast: Ng Cho-Fan 吳楚帆; Cheung Ying 張瑛; Yung Siu-Yi 容小意; Tsi Lo-Lin 紫羅蓮; Lam Kwun-Shan 林坤山; Yip Ping 葉萍; Leung Suk-Hing 梁淑卿; Ng Ka-Lai 吳嘉麗; Shek Sau 石修
Time: 117 min
Lang: Cantonese
Reviewed: 2012