Jacky Cheung Hok-Yau

Hot Summer Days (全城熱戀熱辣辣)

hot summer days

There’s a heat wave in the Pearl River Delta, and it’s pushing folks to the limit. The TV station’s frying eggs on car hoods, Mister Softee’s auctioning off ice cream cones, and there’s a lottery just to claim a spot on the beach. But crazy things happen when the temperature hits 48° (that’s 118°F), and one side effect is a lot of really sweaty people. Which may be why the movie features ten, give or take a few, beautiful stars in all their skin-glistening glory. The film is not so much about the summer heat as it is about heat of romance, but it still offers plenty of opportunities to showcase its actors basting in the South China humidity. If you’re watching on a boiling June day, it may be some comfort to know that you aren’t the only one soaking through your undergarments.

Hot Summer Days gets things off to a fiery start with a Latin-infused intro that could easily be mistaken for a Supernatural-era Carlos Santana music video. The pulsating beats eventually cool down but not the temperature, and the omnibus film’s many protagonists suffer under the scorching sun. A pianist (Rene Liu) and a chauffeur (Jacky Cheung) both end up in the hospital after passing out from heat stroke and then begin a text message romance. A young man (Jing Boran) pursues a factory girl (Angelababy) who agrees to go out with him if he waits for her at noon for the next 100 days. A food writer (Vivian Hsu) and a sushi chef (Daniel Wu) try to rekindle an old romance, and a fashion photographer (Duan Yihong) acts like a diva towards his model (Michelle Wai) and assistant (Fu Xinbo) and ends up going blind. About the only one who seems to welcome the heat wave is an air conditioner repairman (Nicholas Tse), but he has problems with his father (Gordon Liu) and has a run-in with a mysterious motorcyclist (Barbie Hsu).

Not content to stop there, writers Wing Shya and Tony Chan also include a pair of talking fish because this is just that sort of overstuffed movie. It tries to cover all the romantic bases, but like these kinds of ensemble films, weak storylines are made more obvious by good ones. Besides the CGI fish, it wouldn’t hurt to excise the somber sushi lovers or the remorseful cameraman. Vivian Hsu is bright but Wu fails to register much emotion even in her cheerful presence. Duan also seems to be overcompensating for his costars and doesn’t get much help from Wai or Fu in his character’s road to redemption.

The remaining stories do register, however, and the film’s ruminations on love are acutely felt. Though Hot Summer Days is too much of a patchwork to leave a cohesive message or even sentiment, there are some fine performances and tender moments to savor. Nicholas Tse, for all his personal distractions, is shaping up to be one of Hong Kong’s finest actors, certainly the bonafide star of his generation. His character is irreverent, resentful, and arrogant but faced with his own shortcomings, is gentle, vulnerable, and deeply changed. Some of the film’s most honest scenes are when he looks wordlessly on at his estranged father and his strong-willed companion. Gordon Liu and Barbie Hsu are able partners to Tse, and the trio turns out an effective vignette.

Jacky Cheung and Rene Liu are another couple that shows strength in measures. Both characters pretend to be a little more in text than they are in life and end up trying to balance disappointment with the hope of love. Their story is neither depressing nor over idealistic, and they capture a mature relationship in its promising, nascent stage. Perhaps at the opposite end of the spectrum is the story of persistence and young love. It has a silly start, and I half-expected Jing to plant himself outside the factory windows with a large boombox thrust triumphantly, or defiantly, in the air. That didn’t happen, and instead both his and Angelababy’s characters experience a quieter revolution, one that leaves them less innocent than they were at the start of the summer. Just like this movie, their love, however brief, ultimately satisfies.

“Hot” (熱辣辣) – theme song by Jacky Cheung

Released: 2010
Prod: Fruit Chan 陳果; Paul Cheng 鄭振邦
Dir: Tony Chan 陳國輝; Wing Shya 夏永康
Writer: Tony Chan 陳國輝; Lucretia Ho 何敏文
Cast: Nicholas Tse 謝霆鋒; Jacky Cheung 張學友; Rene Liu 劉若英; Vivian Hsu 徐若瑄; Angelababy 楊穎; Barbie Hsu 徐熙媛; Duan Yihong 段奕宏; Fu Xinbo 付辛博; Jing Boran 井柏然; Daniel Wu 吳彥祖; Michelle Wai 詩雅; Shawn Yue 余文樂; Gordon Liu 劉家輝; Conroy Chan 陳子聰; Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk 張曼玉; Joey Yung 容祖兒; Jan Lamb 林海峰
Time: 93 min
Lang: Cantonese and Mandarin
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2015

Crossing Hennessy (月滿軒尼詩)

crossing hennessy

Hennessy Road is the main thoroughfare in Wanchai and bisects the vibrant Hong Kong Island district. Strolling down the street can be like stepping into a Hong Kong tourism video, if you have the right eye for things. Unfortunately, writer-director Ivy Ho lacks a sharpness with the camera that she has with the pen. Her film is one that might have yielded lush visuals to accompany its subjects. Stretches of Hennessy are paneled with glossy skyscrapers across from which sit stubborn pawn shops sweating paint curls. There are walk-ups squished resolutely between luxury apartment complexes while rusty stalls selling electronic bits or fish food bookend certain blocks. Meanwhile, a scramble of gamblers, foreigners, and elderly footballers provide a rhythmic soundtrack to the sights.

Such vividness is lacking in Crossing Hennessy though, and Wanchai instead comes across as a generic part of Hong Kong or any Asian city for that matter. The tram, which famously dings its way from one end of the island to the other, crawls through a few scenes but there’s little significance except to denote that the action takes place in Hong Kong and not in Kowloon or the New Territories.

What Ho fails to capture on camera, however, she compensates with careful attention to her flawed characters, most of whom would make awkward to uncomfortable lunch dates. That is how Loy (Jacky Cheung) and Lin (Tang Wei) are initially thrown together. Loy’s relatives, headed by his strong-willed mother Mrs. Chiang (Paw Hee-Ching), are determined to put an end to his bachelor days, but it’s a hard task given that he’s a perpetual man-child, that fortysomething who still needs to be roused from bed in the morning. They seek out the owners of bathroom supply store (Lam Wai and Margaret Cheung), ostensibly on the other side of Hennessy, eager to find a good partner for their niece, Lin. As far as practicality goes, it’s a good match; Loy’s family runs a household electronics business, so in addition to a new in-law, there’s also the latest model toilet or dehumidifier to be gained.

The first date over dim sum includes all their family members and goes off course when Loy insists on poking happy faces into his custard bun and Lin dresses like a frumpy kid who’s just discovered her mother’s makeup drawer. Still, they meet again out of obedience. There are no sparks, neither from romance nor from great dislike, and in fact, the two spend a lot of time feeling indifferent towards one another

One reason is that Lin is already attached. She’s devoted to her boyfriend, Xu (Andy On), who is serving time for assault, and arranges for his post-release life with care. Meanwhile, Loy continues to long for his childhood sweetheart (Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee), a newly divorced, well-to-do photographer. These are relationships nearing or past their due dates, and it’s not clear how long the partners will hold out.

That’s not how a romantic comedy usually unfolds, which, despite its marketing, this movie is not. There is little rush to show Loy and Lin’s compatibility even when they find a few things to bond over – a love of murder mysteries, their meddlesome relatives, their love lives. Certain audiences will dislike the way the script proceeds at a snail’s pace, but sometimes there is more story in the process of friendship than in a paint-by-numbers romance.

It actually helps, for once, that there is a sizable age gap between the two leads, widening the distance between them and making their relationship all the more improbable. But when they grow closer, it never becomes creepy or perverse, thanks to some nuanced performances. Cheung is adept at playing an emotionally stunted adult haunted by the loss of the two affirming relationships in his life (with his ex and his father, played by Lowell Lo in dream sequences). He overplays it a bit at times, but he conveys the core of his character effectively. At the other end of the spectrum is Lin, and Tang breathes maturity into her character. She has an easy intimacy with Cheung and On even when her onscreen persona does not. The script doesn’t allow her to stretch her part too far, but in holding back, she still lets Lin’s emotions peek through.

A peppery supporting cast adds to the simmering partnership, and Paw is at the center. Brash, demanding, and selfish, she draws attention in every way. You wouldn’t want Loy’s mother to raise you. So it’s no wonder why he’d rather be spoiled by his spinster aunt, a familiar role that Mimi Chu gives aching personality to. Uncle Ching also gets caught in Mrs. Chiang’s net. Danny Lee plays her accountant cum lover, or maybe it’s the other way around, with equal parts adoration and exasperation. They are a whirlwind that occasionally disrupts the stasis, and like the rest of this movie, a reflection of the fits and starts that mark ordinary life.

“Lucky in Love” by Jacky Cheung:

Released: 2010
Prod: Yee Chung-Man 奚仲文; Cary Cheng 鄭劍鋒; Cheung Hong-Tat 張康達
Dir: Ivy Ho 岸西
Writer: Ivy Ho 岸西
Cast: Jacky Cheung 張學友; Tang Wei 湯唯; Paw Hee-Ching 鮑起靜; Mimi Chu 朱咪咪; Danny Lee 李修賢; Andy On 安志杰; Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee 張可頤; Lowell Lo 盧冠廷; Lam Wai 林威; Margaret Cheung 張瀅子; Kwok Fung 郭鋒; Gill Mohindepaul Singh 喬寶寶; Ekin Cheng 鄭伊健; Derek Tsang 曾國祥; Maggie Siu 邵美琪; Cheuk Wai-Man 卓慧敏
Time: 105 min
Lang: Cantonese, some Mandarin
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2015

The Days of Being Dumb (亞飛與亞基)

days of being dumb

Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Jacky Cheung prove their acting mettle by playing the lousiest gangsters ever in the comedy The Days of Being Dumb – not at all to be confused with Wong Kar-Wai’s Very Serious Drama The Days of Being Wild, which also featured both actors. In a massive gang fight, childhood buds Fred (Leung) and Keith (Cheung) are the ones who end up defending themselves with a steak knife and a can opener. Besides the fact that they talk a bigger game than they play, they also have the lousy habit of accidentally getting their their bosses killed. It’s not long before word gets around that these guys are poison, and no one wants to take them under.

Their never-say-die attitude doesn’t stop this pair from trying, however. “There are more triad gangs than cinemas,” Fred reasons. Eventually, Gold-Teeth Shing (Billy Ching) sets them up with a legitimate business, which seems the safest option for Hong Kong’s gangland. They think they are running a modeling company but soon discover that they’re just overseeing a pipeline of prostitutes. Lesbian Jane (Anita Yuen, in an award winning role) is their first, and only, charge and later becomes victim to Hong Kong’s tendency to gay away onscreen homosexuality when she begins to develop feelings for Fred.

Thankfully Boss Kwan (Ken Tong) rescues them from the lurid business and initiates them into his gang. Facing trouble from the authorities as well as the underworld, he takes this gutsy step in an attempt to defy fate and prove that he fears no one if he does not fear death. Kwan dangles his milk-drinking gangsters around like a good luck charm, and it seems the boys have finally found their place in life – until they go and screw things up again.

The hilarious script is rubber stamped with trademark Hong Kong inanity and offers a countermeasure to the puffed up triads who usually grace the screens. Fred and Keith – the most innocuous names for a pair of gangsters – mimic the bluster of their cinematic counterparts with amusing results. Their efforts work especially well thanks to Leung and Cheung, who give their picaresque heroes a tender and affable quality. The characters aren’t stand-up citizens, but they have a conscience and a strong sense of friendship behind their juvenile eagerness to be a part of something greater.

“Crushing on You” (暗戀你) by Jacky Cheung:

Released: 1992
Prod: Peter Chan 陳可辛
Dir: Blacky Ko 柯受良
Writer: Joe Ma 馬偉豪; James Yuen 阮世生; Cheung Chi-Sing 張志成
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai 梁朝偉; Jacky Cheung 張學友; Kent Tong 湯鎮業; Eric Tsang 曾志偉; Anita Yuen 袁詠儀; Luk Kim-Ming 陸劍明; Chan Chi-Fai 陳志輝; Billy Ching 程守一
Time: 92 min
Lang: Cantonese, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014