Terence Yin

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (單身男女)

dont go breaking my heart

 

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart posits the essential question: would you rather choose a rascally Louis Koo or an idealized Daniel Wu? The answer takes a while to arrive at, and if you don’t mind waiting a few years (that’s movie years) to figure out the answer, you might enjoy this one. Then again, you might find such an extended romance plodding.

After an unexpected run-in with her ex-boyfriend and his pregnant wife, a distressed Zixin (Gao Yuanyuan) nearly becomes roadkill. Luckily Qihong (Wu), a frustrated architect in the guise of an unkempt vagabond, stops downing his bottle of Jack long enough to sweep in and rescue her. She also catches the eye of Shen-Ran, who works in the building across from hers and, if we are honest, is kind of a stalker. When he notices her feeling down, he tries to cheer her up with post-it art on his window.

It’s a cute little plot device that will make the romantics sigh, but it causes a good deal of drama. Shen-Ran finally arranges a face-to-face meeting with Zixin but accidentally attracts a busty worker in the office below. Rather than excuse himself, he makes the first of many mistakes that leave Zixin wondering whether he’s worth it.

If this was real life, the problem would sort itself out. Now that Qihong has a new muse, he rededicates himself to designing award winning skyscrapers, and decides to shower and shave. He ends up being the perfect antidote for Shen-Ran’s sometimes childish and unfaithful behavior, and Zixin understandably begins to fall for him as well. Except Shen-Ran is still very much in her life. Girl’s in a pickle.

The unhurried pace at which the romance unfolds ends up being one of the strengths of the movie. The characters don’t feel pushed into a single trajectory but have room to occasionally pause and observe their relationships from the sidelines. When Zixin wants to step back from a suitor, it feels natural, just as it does when she thinks about rekindling her affair.

This should make the characters, or at least their actions, seem closer to reality, but they end up feeling less intimate despite the strong screen presence of all three actors. Gao is a sweet lead, and Koo and Wu likewise play to their strengths as the suave and gentle leading man, respectively. But the characters are never fully realized. Shen-Ran has a way with post-its, candles, and magic tricks, but I never really understood why Zixin loved him so much, especially with Qihong at her side. Was it because he was perfect almost to the point of dullness?

The skin-deep characterization in some ways matches the glamorous, cosmopolitan sheen of the film, made more for Mainland tastes than for Hong Kong. There’s nary a street shot without a label, and directors Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai seem to have gone with the rule that there’s no such thing as too much product placement. It’s a shame that brands and logos end up substituting for Hong Kong’s urban beauty, otherwise captured vibrantly and with crystal clarity by To and Wai.

Trailer featuring “Love is Very Simple” (愛很簡單) by David Tao:

Released: 2011
Prod: Johnnie To 杜琪峰; Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝
Dir: Johnnie To 杜琪峰; Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝
Writer: Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝; Yau Nai-Hoi 游乃海; Ray Chan 陳偉斌; Jevons Au 歐文傑
Cast: Louis Koo 古天樂; Daniel Wu 吳彥祖; Gao Yuanyuan 高圓圓; Lam Suet 林雪; Larisa 瑞莎; JJ Jia 賈曉晨; Terence Yin 尹子維; Selena Li 李詩韻; Iva Law 羅泳嫻
Time: 114 min
Lang: Cantonese, Mandarin, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

McDull, the Alumni (春田花花同學會)

mcdull the alumni

“Magnificently unprepared for the long littleness of life,” reads a line from Alan Bennett’s award winning play The History Boys. The sentiment applies to a good many people and situations, though usually not to a Chinese New Year film and not to one starring a cartoon pig. The festive comedies are better known for riotous gags and irreverent humor than for evoking existential angst. But like previous movies in the McDull franchise, this one couches sober self-reflection in the whimsy of Alice Mak’s animation.

The little porker’s third big screen outing still bears some trademarks of a New Year’s film. There are cameos aplenty and it is rich in local flavor. A drinking game with mentions of BBQ pork rice would end badly. It’s also fun and funny, something you can watch with the kids. Chances are, you’ll be more offended by the toilet humor than they are. And that’s pretty much the dividing line for the film’s audience. I don’t mean that the movie separates those who have a preoccupation with the call of nature with those who do not, but I suspect that children are watching an entirely different film than adults.

McDull, the Alumni has no discernable plot. The nearest thing to one is a hostage crisis on Chinese New Year’s Eve and the upcoming almost-50th anniversary of the Springfield Blossom Kindergarten. Since the movie is told in vignettes, the story allows for gags aplenty, many of which involve food. Diners at the famous Jumbo floating restaurant in Aberdeen stuff themselves silly and make unintelligible sounds while trying to order more grub, and a hungry office worker (Jaycee Chan) uses the heat generated by his computer to poach an egg.

Beneath the silliness, however, lies a bittersweet message about success, particularly a Hong Kong brand of it that includes a flashy title and a feeling of self-importance. Springfield’s hot pot reunion dinner gives the principal (Anthony Wong) and teacher Miss Chan (The Pancakes) cause to teach the students about becoming pillars of society. At the same time, one of the school’s graduates, May (Zhou Bichang, aka Bibi Chow), reflects on her life choices when she is taken hostage.

The children, rather farm animals’, hopes and candid observations are amusing, but their innocence also disguises piercing truths. A recent graduate (Isabella Leong) rushes to a BBQ shop hoping to be be hired as a rice scooper. What the boss (Christopher Doyle) really needs is a chicken chopper, and her miscalculation of the job market nearly costs her the job. Poor McDull, never the brightest pig on the block, meanwhile decides he wants to be an OL (office lady) when he grows up because he doesn’t have to wear pants. He finds himself in a bind when he decides he also wants to eat shark fin soup. He briefly considers a future as a doctor or lawyer since they can always afford the delicacy.

McDull, the Alumni is not as strong as the first two films, but it leaves you with the same mix of melancholy and tempered optimism. Mixing the animation with live action turns out to be hit and miss. The cavalcade of stars does distract and comes off as gimmicky, but Zhou, winner of the Mainland’s Super Girl singing contest and the least glamorous and famous of the actors, captures the film’s tone the best. She isn’t very expressive but has a shy, bewildered look that is right for the part, conveying the overwhelming feeling of a woman who has left the pastels and security of youth for good.

“Fing Fing吓” by The Pancakes (“We have to work OT because we didn’t really work before 6 o’clock…..”):

Released: 2006
Prod: Peter Chan 陳可辛; Jojo Hui 許月珍; Brian Tse 謝立文
Dir: Samson Chiu 趙良駿
Writer: Brian Tse 謝立文
Cast: Ronald Cheng 鄭中基; Anthony Wong 黃秋生; Gigi Leung 梁詠琪; Sandra Ng 吳君如; Eric Tsang 曾志偉; Bibi Chow 周筆暢Chen Bolin 陳柏霖; Josie Ho 何超儀; Kelly Chen 陳慧琳; Jaycee Chan 房祖名Shawn Yue 余文樂Miki Yeung 楊愛瑾Jan Lamb 林海峰Francis Ng 吳鎮宇; Cheung Tat-Ming 張達明; Nicholas Tse 謝霆鋒Michael Miu 苗僑偉; Tats Lau 劉以達Alex Fong Lik-Sun 方力申Andrew Lin 連凱Daniel Wu 吳彥祖Terence Yin 尹子維Conroy Chan 陳子聰Isabella Leong 梁洛施Jim Chim 詹瑞文; Teresa Fu 傅穎Hui Siu-Hung 許紹雄; Wayne Lai 黎耀祥; Eddie Cheung 張兆輝Yip Wing-Sze 葉詠詩; Hong Kong Sinfonietta; Wong Yau-Nam 黃又南Christopher Doyle 杜可風; Chet Lam 林一峰; John Shum 岑建勳; Kary Ng 吳雨霏; Jane Zhang 張靚穎
Time: 91 min
Lang: Cantonese, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

Gen-X Cops (特警新人類)

gen x cops

This movie has the neon gloss of the late 1990s and might feel a little dated. The Gen-Xers of yore are hardly dying their shaggy locks purple or giving the finger to their bosses. In fact, they probably are the bosses. Nevertheless, it remains a good introduction to Hong Kong cinema, a movie that delivers everything it promises – action, comedy, youthful rebellion, international flair – and all this mayhem breezily but firmly rooted in Hong Kong.

“Gen-X” is used here not so much as a sociological definition as it is to suggest a class of punkish misfits and underdogs. This gang can’t conform to rules, has problems with authority, is searching for meaning in life, and has miserable taste in fashion; that is to say, they are young. And that apparently lends them varying shades of criminality.

At the darkest end of the spectrum is Daniel (Daniel Wu), the younger brother of gangster Dinosaur (Gordon Lam). He’s a bit of a lost soul and, despite his overseas education, has opted for a high-stakes criminal life to that of a high-stakes banker [insert joke about these being the same career path]. His closest companions are Tooth (Terence Yin) and girlfriend Haze (Jaymee Ong) who willfully aid and abet his crimes. The fearsome Akatora (Nakamura Toru) takes on Daniel and uses him to secure a shipment of Deadliest Weapons Ever but faces some trouble from Dinosaur’s pal, Lok (Francis Ng).

The Hong Kong police get wind of the whole deal and set to tackle it like adults. Inspector Chan (Eric Tsang) wants in on the case. He has a personal interest but is taunted by the sneering Superintendent To (Moses Chan) and laughed off because of his epileptic twitches. In a very Gen-X sort of way, Chan carries on his own investigation anyway, recruiting some recently dismissed police academy trainees as undercover agents. Jack (Nicholas Tse), Match (Stephen Fung), and Alien (Sam Lee) look and act in ways that are more likely to get them stopped by police. They show they are pretty tough dudes by disrespecting anyone over the age of 30, getting into bar fights, and having really bad posture. The same goes for Y2K (Grace Ip), the group’s techie who also rolls her eyes with aplomb.

It’s hard to imagine a similar film being made today. There seems to be little room for fun action flicks. Movies with explosions and gunfights tend to skew towards dark and heavy, laden with overtones about the direction of Hong Kong society. Gen-X Cops delivers the firepower but also supplies an arsenal of irreverent shenanigans to lighten the mood. It benefits from the fresh energy of its stars, eager beavers at the time. These young turks’ penchant for hard work and desire to please come through. They give their otherwise simple characters a little bit of life and the audience someone to sympathize with. Maybe it was the actors’ international backgrounds converging all at once in Hong Kong or perhaps the newness of the Handover or, conversely, the apocalyptic buzz of the coming millenium. Maybe it was just the thrill of blowing up the Hong Kong Convention Centre. Something makes this drawn out plot, long on betrayal and misplaced loyalties, an arousing adventure.

Released: 1999
Prod: John Chong 莊澄; Solon So 蘇志鴻; Benny Chan 陳木勝
Dir: Benny Chan 陳木勝
Writer: Benny Chan 陳木勝
Cast: Nicholas Tse 謝霆鋒; Stephen Fung 馮德倫; Sam Lee 李燦森; Daniel Wu 吳彥祖; Grace Ip 葉佩雯; Nakamura Toru 仲村 トオル; Francis Ng 吳鎮宇; Gordon Lam 林家棟; Terence Yin 尹子維; Jaymee Ong 王淑美; Moses Chan 陳豪; Eric Tsang 曾志偉; Wayne Lai 黎耀祥; Ken Lo 盧惠光; Bey Logan 龍比意; Jackie Chan 成龍
Time: 113 min
Lang: Cantonese, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014