Wong Jing

Love is the Only Answer (人約離婚後)

love is the only answer

Patrick Kong is at it again with another tale of love in the city. Like Marriage with a Liar, cheating couples expound on the nature of romance and relationships; unlike that movie, this one is fairly enjoyable, thanks to the credible acting skills and unexpected chemistry of the leading couple. Lest you be too greedy, still expect snipy women, painful acting, frenetic editing, and a big reveal.

Kong trades up by casting TVB star Charmaine Sheh as his leading lady. Neither an ingenue nor a busty leng mo, à la Kong’s previous muses Stephy Tang and Chrissy Chau, Sheh brings a grounded realism that makes her character Bo seem relatively normal in the hyperactive and reactive world of cinematic Hong Kong women. She takes control of her life, as adults are wont to do, in a very dramatic way on her wedding day – by exposing her new husband Ryan’s (Alex Fong Lik-Sun) sex tape with her bridesmaid (Jeana Ho).

For most, that would end the relationship, full stop. But Kong just uses it as his starting point to spin a nonsensical plot. One year later, Bo and Ryan are getting along fabulously, in a way that has no basis in reality. He uses her to get rid of clingy girlfriends and, since he is filthy rich and the landlord of her fruit stall, she exploits their quasi-friendship to get more favorable rent. They go out for dinner together when good food and good deals are involved, and they seem to enjoy exchanging rapid fire insults and constantly reminding each other that they are in fact divorced. I don’t know divorced people like them, but maybe you do.

Feelings start to get muddled and hurt when Ryan convinces Bo to join a spouse swap. As luck, or the writer, would have it, the couple trade with another young and good looking pair, Lai (Kelly Fu) and Kit (Him Law). Ryan and Lai are eager to dive into things and immediately get on with whatever it is that swapping spouses want. Meanwhile, Bo and a very reticent Kit, who just joined to please his wife, try to turn their awkward situation into something more genuine.

While that part of the story is on slow boil, Kong introduces a minor plot involving an engaged couple, Jason (Jason Chan) and Christy (Anjayliya Chan). Jason spends most of his screen time making puppy eyes at his fiancée, who returns the favor by snapping like a hyena at every single thing. It is an exercise in bad storytelling; this part seems totally extraneous – until the closing minutes of the film when it.all.comes.together. But by then, the couple feel like more of a contrivance, an overly complicated way to squeeze in a commentary on love that would be better made by focusing on Bo and Ryan’s story.

This frantic tying up of loose ends is endemic to Patrick Kong, also serial abuser of flashbacks. As with previous movies, the writer-director slices and dices at will – I want to say like a Jack Kerouac of Hong Kong romantic comedies, but that would be wrong. Again the editing tends to prove distracting rather than reflective, with the action toggling back and forth between past and present and one couple or another.

Kong also cannot overcome his penchant for casting supremely unskilled actors. Sheh and Fong shine like bright stars in his firmament, and I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about that. The mismatched couple surprises in several ways. They make convincing sparring partners, but I also found myself drawn to the brazen honesty of their characters and relationship. Alex Fong the Younger is devilishly magnetic as the cad. Unfortunately the same appeal does not extend to the supporting cast, which, cobbled together, make about ¾ of an actor. But this is Hong Kong film, so we all have to make sacrifices.

超生記 – themesong by Charmaine Fong.

Released: 2011
Prod: Wong Jing 王晶
Dir: Patrick Kong 葉念琛
Writer: Patrick Kong 葉念琛
Cast: Charmaine Sheh 佘詩曼; Alex Fong 方力申; Him Law 羅仲謙; Anjayliya Chan 陳嘉寶; Jason Chan 陳智燊; Rose Chan 陳嘉桓; King Kong 金剛; Siu Yam-Yam 邵音音; Fu Ka-Lei 傅嘉莉; Chak Hoi-Tai 翟凱泰; Timmy Hung 洪天明; Charmaine Fong 方皓玟; Jacqueline Chong 莊思敏; Harriet Yeung 楊詩敏; Dada Lo 盧頌之; Evelyn Choi 蔡穎恩; Michelle Wai 詩雅; 6 Wing 陸永; Jeana Ho 何佩瑜; Carol Yeung 楊梓瑤; Raymond Chiu 趙永洪; Bob Lam 林盛斌; Kandy Wong 黃山怡; Tat Dik 狄易達
Time: 90 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

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

Beauty on Duty! (美麗密令)

Hong Kong doesn’t borrow from Hollywood often, but when it does, the result is usually middling (e.g. What Women Want, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible). So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Miss Congeniality-inspired Beauty on Duty! is another unexceptional effort. Although it starts off mildly funny, it descends into Wong Jing’s usual bag of sophomoric gags, which this time includes itching powder, silicone breast pads, and crocodile sex. Clearly not the city’s most ambitious filmmaker.

For this caper, Wong enlists Charlene Choi as Chung Oi-Fong, the titular beauty on duty. The fresh faced officer helps capture the notorious Lam Suet Fatty. He is willing to testify against the real bad guy Wong Jing Brother Tin but only if the police protects his daughter June (Maggie Li) in the upcoming Miss Asia Youth Beauty Pageant. Naturally this requires the work of an entire team of officers. Not only does Fong ingratiate herself into the contestant pool, the feared Iron Mary (Sandra Ng) dons the disguise of beauty mistress, Inspector Luk (Lu Yi) and Flying Tigers recruit Donnie Yuen (Donnie Yen’s Ip Man collaborator Louis Fan) masquerade as a gay image consultant and make up artist, and Fong’s dad Officer Indiana Chung (Hui Siu-Hung) pretends to be…her dad. Meanwhile, Brother Tin has entered his own leggy assassin (Samantha Ko) into the contest to ensure that Fatty won’t squeal.

Obviously, this is not the makings of a cinematic classic, nor is it engaging enough to warrant the superfluous exclamation point in the film’s title. The ending is predetermined and there’s little sustenance for the journey, even with an understated comedic turn by Louis Fan. Nevertheless Hong Kong is ripe for a satire on beauty pageants. Unlike Miss Congeniality’s America, where such contests have largely disappeared from the national scene, these annual parades continue to generate healthy press coverage in Hong Kong. Their relevance is largely driven by TVB, the free-to-air monopoly that sponsors and broadcasts several pageants (including the recently suspended Mr. Hong Kong), and then contracts many of the participants for acting and hosting gigs. Wong’s send-up of controversial TVB general manager Stephen Chan in the form of Stephen Shum (Jim Chim, relishing the role) is one of the more entertaining aspects of this movie, but there is a manipulative quality about these affairs that he entirely sidesteps. No one imagines that these are “scholarship programs,” and it is worth acknowledging the outsized influence they have on the roles offered to women and the actresses cast to play them.

This partly accounts for Charlene Choi’s problematic presence. She spent the naughts playing the effervescent girl next door and revisits the act here, with Sir Indiana trying to shield his delicate daughter from the dangers of police work. Of course, Choi is closing in on three decades and does not need to recycle the My Wife is 18 routine. If she can handle a marriage, and divorce (to Ronald Cheng) as the public discovered days before the movie’s release, and if she can maintain a low-key relationship with her co-star and current partner William Chan, then she can portray an independent, mature undercover officer. Something along the lines of Miriam Yeung’s comedic yet seasoned Fong Lai-Kuen of Love Undercover would be a welcome alternative for both Choi and the audience.

Prod: Catherine Hun Ga-Jan
Dir: Wong Jing 王晶
Writer: Wong Jing 王晶
Cast: Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin 蔡卓妍; Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu 吳君如; Louis Fan Siu-Wong 樊少皇; Lu Yi 陸毅; Hui Siu-Hung 許紹雄; Xie Na 謝娜; Jim Chim Sui-Man 詹瑞文; Maggie Li Man-Kwan 李曼筠; William Chan Wai-Ting 陳偉霆; Samantha Ko Hoi-Ning 高海寧; Cheung Tat-Ming 張達明; Sammy Leung 森美; Lam Suet 林雪; Wong Jing 王晶; Kingdom Yuen King-Tan 苑瓊丹; Gregory Wong Chung-Yiu 王宗堯; Mok Mei-Lam 莫美林
Time: 97 min
Lang: Cantonese
Reviewed: 2012