Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk

Doubles Cause Troubles (神勇雙妹嘜) (1989)

There’s at least one thing this goofy comedy does right, and that’s pit two bickering cousins against each other in a battle of wills when their grandmother dies and leaves them her spacious flat. They’ll only inherit if they live together for a year, so they quickly decide that they’ll do whatever it takes to secure that flat even if it means being petty AF for the next twelve months. And there’s never been a more Hong Kong thing to happen because let’s be honest, who in this city wouldn’t engage in an all-out brawl with their relatives if grandma’s flat was at stake?

This film does more than capitalize on the cultural zeitgeist of 1989 though, which is also that of 2018, and Doubles Cause Troubles is an engaging comedy action thriller triad murder mystery starring Dodo Cheng and Maggie Cheung as Bo, a nurse, and Tai, a stage actress. After taking up residence in their new flat, they meet Ben (Poon Chun-Wai), their grandmother’s tenant. He’s cute and involved in some shady smuggling deal. When he turns up dead before the night is out, the two find themselves the targets of Ben’s associates who think the women know where he stashed the loot. Bad fung shui be damned though because they stay put rather than fleeing their new home.

It’s classic 80s fare with rapid fire verbal comedy and physical gags. The humor eases up in the middle when the script busies itself with the specifics of what Ben did and why Bo and Tai are now being chased, but the film is a non-stop ball of energy tumbling towards the finish. Viper (Hon Yee-Sang) and his gang of Mainland toughs – including one who cruises around in roller skates – keep popping up at the most inopportune moments, unable to take the hint that Bo and Tai are totally clueless about Ben’s dealings. Bo’s admirers, low level gangsters Handsome (Nat Chan) and Fly (Charlie Cho), also help them elude Viper or get in the way, depending. Ben’s handsome brother, Sam (Wilson Lam), adds some order to the proceedings when he shows up but soon throws things out of order when it’s revealed he’s not Ben’s brother at all. Like all good police-triad dramas, the script keeps you guessing about everyone’s loyalties, especially Sam’s. That sneaky hottie is so convincing as a police officer and a double-crossing gangster.

This wouldn’t be a Wong Jing film, and it is, without sexism and misogyny though. The writer-director does what he always does and inserts himself into the movie by playing a lecherous councilor. The guy keeps toilets in his living room that double as seating and storage and orders date rape drugs by the boxful. Thankfully, Maggie Cheung does not actually kiss him and is fully clothed when she collapses on top of him. Girl knows her worth, and she should because she kills in this part. Well, not literally; everyone else does the killing. But Cheung and Cheng both turn out smart, snappy performances. Bo and Tai may be a bit hare-brained, but they keep their cool under the circumstances. They also overcome their animosity and love and support each other like good cousins should. That’s always a win for Hong Kong cinema.

Released: 1989
Dir: Wong Jing 王晶
Writer: Wong Jing 王晶
Cast: Carol Dodo Cheng Yu-Ling 鄭裕玲, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk 張曼玉, Nat Chan Pak-Cheung 陳百祥, Charlie Cho Cha-Lee 曹查理, Wilson Lam Jun-Yin 林俊賢, Poon Chun-Wai 潘震偉, Kwan Ming-Yuk 關明玉, Hon Yee-Sang 韓義生, Sherman Wong Jing-Wa 黃靖華, Lo Fan 魯芬, Yu Miu-Lin 余慕蓮, Wong Jing 王晶, Dennis Chan Kwok-San 陳國新, Chan Fai-Hung 陳輝虹
Time: 93 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2018

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