Sammy Leung

Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat (六樓后座)

truth or dare

Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat doesn’t seem like it should be relevant or revealing. Six twentysomethings played by aspiring A-listers to solid D-listers share a dingy flat and spend the year trying to fulfill their goals. They also throw lots of parties, during which raucous games of Truth or Dare figure prominently. The film nevertheless proves to be a refreshing portrayal of Hong Kong youth and has more honesty than any number of its glossier counterparts.

Things really get cracking for the new residents of the eponymous flat when a round of Truth or Dare goes awry. They agree to accomplish something “new” and “challenging” by the end of their one year lease – or else eat shit, literally. It’s a pretty serious consequence for a pretty vague dare, but accepting goes without question.

Director and co-writer Barbara Wong proceeds to peel away the rough exterior of each character. Rather than capitalizing on the distasteful challenge as lesser films would, she allows the hopes and insecurities of her characters to be the focus. And despite a full six personalities, Wong somehow manages to maximize their screentimes and give a satisfying sketch of each one.

Still, a few parts get a little more attention than others. The even-tempered writer Karena (Karena Lam) puts aside her good sense when she develops feelings for her publisher, a married man she’s never seen. Lam is great in this role, allowing her character to be headstrong while leaving herself emotionally vulnerable. Meanwhile, Karena’s best friend Candy (Candy Lo), a shiftless tarot card reader, has the opposite problem when two police officers (William So and Edwin Siu) compete for her attention. The three actors form an odd and not entirely believable love triangle, but Lo eventually makes good on a flighty character who keeps her feelings well hidden.

Though he’s the least flashy of all his flatmates, Leo (Roy Chow) turns out to be one of the most affecting characters. Chow gives a sensitive performance as the quiet, gawky friend who secretly holds a flame for Karena. There’s something of an injured bird in the way he moves, his lanky frame filled with an overabundance of unrequited love. At the opposite end of the spectrum are Sammy Leung, who plays a depressed clown nursing bitter feelings towards his childhood love, and Patrick Tang, who spends his time scheming to make more money. If you are familiar with their acting, you know that they tend to blast their way through every movie, and their performances here again lack the subtlety to be truly moving.

My favorite character was Wing (Lawrence Chou). The son of wealthy parents, he is on hiatus from medical school in America when he decides to slum it with his friends and try to pursue a music career. He has an antagonistic relationship with his mother (Teresa Carpio, in an inspired cameo), whom he blames for interfering with his dreams.

His story, like the others in the movie, sounds hackneyed, but Wong largely saves her picture from melodrama because she doesn’t go out of her way to deliver searing truths about youth. In most cases, the moral would be to stick it to the parents and go after what your heart desires. But Wing and his friends show themselves to be far more attuned to reality than films usually give young people credit for. They might be a randy, aimless, and sometimes irresponsible bunch, but they are also thoughtful, loyal, and motivated.

Hastily edited trailer doesn’t do the film justice:

“6th Floor Rear Flat” (六樓后座) theme song by Karena Lam:

Teresa Carpio steals the show with a fitting cover of Beyond’s “Boundless Sea and Sky” (海闊天空)

Released: 2003
Prod: Lawrence Cheng 鄭丹瑞; Arthur Wong 黃岳泰
Dir: Barbara Wong 黃真真
Writer: Lawrence Cheng 鄭丹瑞; Barbara Wong 黃真真
Cast: Karena Lam 林嘉欣; Candy Lo 盧巧音; Lawrence Chou 周俊偉; Roy Chow 周永恆; Patrick Tang 鄧健泓; Sammy Leung 森美; William So 蘇永康; Edwin Siu 蕭正楠; Hau Woon-Ling 侯煥玲; Carlo Ng 吳家樂; Barbara Wong 黃真真; Siu Yam-Yam 邵音音; May Law 羅冠蘭; Kitty Yuen 阮小儀; Teresa Carpio 杜麗莎; Richie Ren 任賢齊; Juno Mak 麥浚龍; Lawrence Cheng 鄭丹瑞
Time: 103 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

Fighting for Love (同居蜜友)

fighting for love

These are two emotionally stunted would-be lovers in Joe Ma’s Fighting for Love. Tung Choi (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and Deborah (Sammi Cheng) bark, claw, and kick at anyone who stands in their way, and they even have a go at each other in the first few minutes. Their mutual disregard for the rules of the road ends in a 999 call, and it’s not the last time they meet.

Of the two, Deborah is more churlish, the coworker who turns the room to ice the second she steps in. Spitting abuse left and right, she leaves a wake of shattered self-confidence as she strides into her office. Deborah’s home life doesn’t fare much better. Her older sister tolerates her while her dad, with whom she lives, only speaks to her when he wants her to walk the dog.

Tung Choi has a warmer relationship with his family, by which I mean they often engage in heated arguments that involve screaming and throwing things. They have the brassy edge of the nouveau riche; not only do they own a successful chain of tripe restaurants (where they serve “2000 bowls of cooked bull organs a day”) but their father also won the lottery, twice. Tung Choi’s harpy family might explain why he’s also pretty insufferable. Though his insults are not as calculated, he can be surly and snappy on a turn.

In short, the two perfect for each other. But rather than teasing out their combative flirtation, the movie takes a poorly planned shortcut. Deborah’s determination to get compensated for the fender bender leads to an early confrontation in a karaoke room. The tension is quickly defused when Tung Choi shows up drunk, and before you know it, they’re snuggling and smoking in bed.

Their one night fling isn’t surprising, but Deborah’s inexplicably sweet demeanor afterwards is. She’s suddenly calling her former foe and teasing three certain words out of him. Tung Choi, also a little confused as to whether she’s in earnest, plays it off but finds himself falling for Deborah’s frankness and fortitude. That makes more sense because she’s a contrast to his manipulative television personality girlfriend, Mindy (Niki Chow), who gradually proves herself to be more of a pill than her rival.

Cheng is incredible to watch and harnesses the power of playing against type. Even as the script pulls her in several directions, Deborah comes off as a real and understandable character. She may not be entirely likable by film’s end, but she doesn’t make excuses and she takes advantage of chances to redeem herself. Tung Choi runs into her after she’s gotten fired and kicked out of the house and ends up sleeping on a hospital room floor. Cheng is full of pathetic bluntness as Deborah explains what’s happened, her face filled with recognition of her own failings rather than with self-pity.

Even with a similarly nuanced performance by Leung, however, this movie never finds its groove. It echoes of a talky, comedy-drama independent. The film is fronted by two people who don’t really know how to have relationships but are prepared to acknowledge that and try anyway. It’s a sometimes clever and funny script that aims for realism of life and love, but ultimately, it can’t overcome its lack of narrative discipline and ends up being a disjointed star vehicle.

“Doctors and Me” (醫生與我) – theme song by Sammi Cheng:

“That Day, Were You Happy” (那天你愉快嗎) by Sammi Cheng:

“Keeping Watch Over Our Love” (守望相愛) by Sammi Cheng

Released: 2001
Prod: Cheung Shing-Sheung 張承勷
Dir: Joe Ma 馬偉豪
Writer: Taures Chow 周燕嫻; Joe Ma 馬偉豪; Aubrey Lam 林愛華
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai 梁朝偉; Sammi Cheng 鄭秀文; Niki Chow 周麗琪; Joe Lee 李耀明; Ha Ping 夏萍; Lee Fung 李楓; Sammy Leung 森美; Chan Man-Lei 陳萬雷; Winston Yeh 葉景文; Hyper BB 茜利妹
Time: 97 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

My Lucky Star (行運超人)

my lucky star

Somewhere, a fung shui master is thousands of dollars richer after conning the makers of My Lucky Star into going ahead with this project. The movie feels twice as long as its 100 minutes, and not even stars Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Miriam Yeung can add much life to it. Of course, this might be expected when the entire story rests on the minutiae of fung shui and people’s obsession with avoiding bad luck or, as some see it, reality.

The Chinese New Year comedy tries to capitalize on the audience’s appetite for anything auspicious, and the transformation of one of Hong Kong’s unluckiest residents seems like a good start. Yip Koo-Hung (Yeung) can’t get a break in any area of her life. She’s on the brink of being fired, she can’t leave the house without tripping over herself, and she’s been held up multiple times. It’s a case for top fung shui master Lai Liu-Po (Leung), except he refuses to see anyone surnamed Yip owing to some fung shui cock up generations back.

She sneaks by anyhow, and Liu-Po agrees to help her because that’s what the story requires. It also demands that they fall in love, though the romance pops out of nowhere. Hung literally jumps into the screen and, armed with nothing more a crayon map of her house, a cute smile, and a lot of chutzpah, the two have the makings of a beautiful friendship.

They hit a few road bumps, but then the movie shuffles to the second major conflict involving a scheming stepmother (Teresa Carpio), a spoiled pop star (Chapman To), and a rival fung shui master (Ronald Cheng). With their powers combined, they conspire to make Hung’s life miserable where fate will not. There’s a message somewhere in this about kindness and karma, but it’s not beaten into the audience the same way it’s been with recent holiday films.

My Lucky Star is also missing the other elements that make New Year’s movies fun, if not intellectually demanding. It’s so cluttered with fung shui references that anyone who isn’t an avowed fan or practitioner will have a hard time relating to the characters. And though the film has a few funny moments regarding Hong Kong’s state of affairs, it is mostly short on comedy.

Besides an unamusing script, Hung and Liu-Po don’t really click as a couple. While the ever suave Leung delivers his dialogue with crisp, rapid fire precision, Yeung’s interpretation of Hung rests on scrunching up her face and throwing fits like a seven year old who’s grounded from Chuck E Cheese. She had proven herself a capable comedienne with hits like Love Undercover, but at this point in her career, Yeung was a better fit for the Daniel Wus of the world.

“Hold On at All Costs” (有愛錯無放過) theme song by Tony Leung and Miriam Yeung:

Released: 2003
Prod: Vincent Kok 谷德昭; David Chan 陳錫康
Dir: Vinent Kok 谷德昭
Writer: Vincent Kok 谷德昭; Patrick Kong 葉念琛
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai 梁朝偉; Miriam Yeung 楊千嬅; Ronald Cheng 鄭中基; Chapman To 杜汶澤; Vincent Kok 谷德昭; Teresa Caprio 杜麗莎; Alex Fong Chung-Sun 方中信; Mark Lui 雷頌德; Anya 安雅; Ken Wong 王合喜; Ken Cheung 張智堯; Sammy Leung 森美; Kitty Yuen 阮小儀; Josie Ho 何超儀; William So 蘇永康; Patrick Tang 鄧健泓; Alex Fong Lik-Sun 方力申; Peter So 蘇民峰; Steven Fung 馮勉恆; various celebrities
Time: 99 min
Lang: Cantonese, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014