Monday, August 16, 2010

Attack of the Moneyed Mutants

The second Hong Kong Film Festival opened auspiciously with a lavish cocktail party at the Rialto cinema in Newmarket, Auckland. There was food I'd never seen or tasted before and, to put it bluntly, I want more.

This was followed by a dragon dance (see badly shot video below) leading us to the theatre, where speeches were made thanking everyone down to the attendants, who did a splendid job. They were friendly, helpful and well dressed.

Something was said about New Zealand-Hong Kong economic co-operation, hands were clapped and then City Under Siege started. If only one could be as complimentary about it as the food.

The film starts off in World War Two where Evil Military Scientists are devising some kind of drug that will give a human being superhuman powers. Said human instantly grows long nails and thick, subcutaneous veins. A whole pile of POWs are flung around an underground cave, but then an attack from outside starts. Cue explosions and more flying bodies.

Cut to a clown. Aaron Kwok plays Sunny, looking a little like a Western Bruce Lee. He will follow a gang of good-for-nothings and they will end up in said cave, where there is plenty of gold. There is also that drug, of which they all get a generous whiff.

The bad guys get badder and Sunny, being good, becomes superhuman - but only when it's required. Talk about a discerning narcotic. But first he gets incredibly fat and meets a beautiful newsreader, Angel, who gets fired for being almost 30. Qi Shu looks like an Orientla Monica Bellucci (or vice versa, who cares, they're both exquisite) and she needs a story to revive her journalistc fortunes. Guess who's going to provide that story?

Hong Kong is under attack from the mutants, who throw heavy armoured trucks (filled with tons of moolah, you understand) as if they're made of balsa wood. Enter Sunny, fighting them all the way, whether it's flying impossibly between moving vehicles at high speed or countering very sharp blades being flung at him. Fair enough; that's part of the genre.

Sunny and the main Bad Guy will finally face off and Angel will...well, you can work it out. It's been done thousands of times before.

The question is, why was this film chosen as the flagship for the festival? There are seven other, perfectly interesting-looking films, but none seems to have this one's budget. Are the festival organisers possibly saying money spent equates cultural wealth?

Nor is the film very funny when it tries to be, since it's competing with the master exponent of that aspect of the Hong Kong school, Jackie Chan.

Lastly, if such a film is meant to go beyond its own borders, then its makers, including director Benny Chan, should as least spend some of their oodles of cash to get proper translators to subtitle their film. It isn't charming. It is just something we weren't to have been impressed with is.

Neil Sonnekus

HK Film Fest Opening

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