Review: ‘The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell,’ starring Aaron Kwok, Louis Koo and Sean Lau

July 27, 2023

by Carla Hay

Aaron Kwok and Sean Lau in “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“The White Shadow 3: Heaven or Hell”

Directed by Herman Yau

Cantonese and Thai with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong and in Thailand, the action film “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class, wealthy and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: Two undercover cops from Hong Kong have conflicts with each other when they gain the trust of drug dealer and escape with him to the Golden Triangle.

Culture Audience: “The White Storm 3: Heaven and Hell” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching loud and obnoxious action flicks that have jumbled storytelling.

Louis Koo and Sean Lau in “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” (Photo courtesy of CMC Pictures)

“The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” is a sloppily edited mess that jumps around too much in the story’s non-chronological timeline. This substandard action movie also does nothing new or interesting with a plot about undercover cops and drug dealers. The films in Hong Kong’s “The White Storm” movie series have no connection to each other, except that they are all action movies about undercover cops trying to arrest big-time drug dealers. Unfortunately, “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” has no connection to quality filmmaking.

Written and directed by Herman Yau, “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” has three main characters (two cops and one drug dealer) who get caught up in a crime caper filled with deception, false identities and issues over trust and loyalty. In the beginning of the movie, two undercover police officers from Hong Kong’s Narcotics Bureau are part of a major drug bust that takes place at a harbor on the high seas south of Kong Kong. Young cop Cheung Kin-hang (played by Aaron Kwok) is more impulsive and more likely to take risks than his older colleague Au Chi-yuen (played by Louis Koo), who is much more methodical and “by the book.”

A ship at this harbor is carrying about $300 million worth of heroin that was hauled out of metal trash bins hidden in the sea. King-hang and Chi-yuen have both been tasked with arresting drug lord Hong So-chai (played by Sean Lau), nicknamed Suchat, as well as Suchat’s gang, who are responsible for this drug shipment. During this drug bust, several members of the gang get arrested, by Suchat gets away.

Heroin is the main drug that Suchat’s sells, but he’s also dealer of methamphetamine, nicknamed ice. Suchat meets King-hang and Chi-yuen while these two cops are undercover. King-han’s alias is Billy. Chi-yuen’s alias is Wing. King-hang is able to win over Suchat’s trust easier because King-hang gets shot during a police raid where Suchat flees. Suchat sees it as a sign of loyalty that King-hang “took a bullet” for Suchat.

Through a series of events that are muddled, because the movie’s three-year timeline goes back and forth in haphazard ways, all three men end up hiding out together in the Golden Triangle, near the border of Thailand and Myanmar. They also spend time in Laem Chabang, Thailand. King-hang and Chi-yuen pretend to be outlaws with Suchat.

The foundation of Suchat’s drug-dealing business comes from the opiate poppy-harvesting work done by local villagers, who rely on this money to survive. King-hang meets a young female harvester named Noon (played by Yang Caiyu), who lives with her ailing grandfather in one of these villages. King-hang and Noon are attracted to each other, but King-hang doesn’t want to blow his cover by telling her his true identity.

What happens to the potential romance between King-hang and Noon is very easy to predict in this violent story that’s just a bunch of scenes with characters lying to each other and fighting each other. Here’s an example of the mind-numbing and idiotic dialogue in the movie. Noon tells King-hang soon after they meet that she does not know why the region where she lives is called the Golden Triangle: “I’ve never seen any gold … We can barely make money to feed ourselves.”

The car chases, shootouts, explosions in “The White Storm3: Heaven or Hell” are all just distractions from the movie’s very flimsy plot. The acting and dialogue in the movie are very generic or just outright terrible. “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” is just another soulless action flick with nothing uniquely distinctive about it. It’s most definitely a type of hell to watch for viewers who want an action movie with an enthralling story and compelling characters.

CMC Pictures released “The White Storm 3: Heaven or Hell” in select U.S. cinemas on July 20, 2023. The movie was released in China on July 6, 2023, and in Hong Kong on July 27, 2023.

Review: ‘Shadows’ (2023), starring Stephy Tang, Philip Keung, Tse Kwan Ho, Ben Yuen, Ling Man Lung, Justin Cheung, Jennifer Yu and Babyjohn Choi

July 17, 2023

by Carla Hay

Stephy Tang in “Shadows” (Photo courtesy of One Cool Pictures and M2M Entertainment)

“Shadows” (2023)

Directed by Glenn Chan

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the horror film “Shadows” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A forensic psychiatrist, who has psychic abilities that allow her to read people’s minds and see their past, begins to suspect that another psychiatrist has been manipulating some of his patients to commit murder.

Culture Audience: “Shadows” will appeal primarily to people who like murder mysteries with supernatural elements.

Tse Kwan Ho in “Shadows” (Photo courtesy of One Cool Pictures and M2M Entertainment)

“Shadows” is a haunting and effective thriller that mixes the supernatural and criminal law. The movie works better as a horror story than as a story about solving murder cases. Some of the plot is too mysterious, but the visuals and acting are impressive. The movie’s ending will probably divide viewers. Some viewers with criticisms about the last few scenes will probably argue that the movie should have had a different outcome. However, the movie had enough clues hinting that the story could have ended in this way.

Directed by Glenn Chan (his feature-film directorial debut) and written by Chang Kai Xiang and Mani Man Pui-Hing, “Shadows” had its world premiere at the 2020 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, but the movie didn’t get released in theaters until 2023. “Shadows” takes place in Hong Kong, where a series of murders are being committed by people who had no previous history of violence. What all of these killers have in common is that they are or have recently been patients of a particular psychiatrist, who is known for believing that people are inherently bad.

“Shadows” begins at the murder scene that sets off the investigation. An award-winning social worker named Chu Chun Yung (played by Justin Cheung), who is 36 years old, has just murdered his 9-year-old-daughter (played by Leung Lok Ching), his 34-year-old wife (played by Lai Jessica Whitney) and his wife’s 64-year-old mother (played by Pang Mei Sheung), who all lived with him in an apartment building. Yung is seen confessing to the murders when he calls an emergency number to summon police. After making the phone call, Yung jumps out of an apartment window.

It’s soon revealed that Yung survived the jump. He has been arrested and taken to a hospital, where a forensic psychiatrist in her late 30s named Dr. Tsui Hiu Ching (played by Stephy Tang), who works closely with the local police, has been tasked with evaluating Yung’s mental stability, to determine if he was insane or not at the time he committed the murders. Yung seems to be in a trance-like state when Ching interviews him. All he will say about the murders is that it was like feeling hungry and then eating a satisfying meal.

Before meeting with Yung, Ching is seen having a private one-on-one meeting with one of her patients named Kloudia (played by Jennifer Yu), who is a timid and forlorn teenager. Ching tries to get Kloudia to open up to her about what’s bothering Kloudia. All that Kloudia will say is, “It’s too late. There’s no escape.”

At that moment, viewers find out that Ching has psychic abilities. She can enter into people’s conscious minds and see into their past. When Ching enters Kloudia’s mind, it’s like she’s stepping into the same where Kloudia s and reliving her past experiences as as n observer. However, the other people in the room cannot see Ching.

During this psychic trip (which is depicted in a very spooky way with murky locations and menacing black smoke, Ching can see that Kloudia’s father (played by Li Ying To) has been physically and verbally abusive to Kloudia. Ching witnesses Kloudia’s father beating Kloudia and tries in vain to shout to Kloudia to run away and not take this abuse any more. Suddenly, Ching is brought back from this psychic trip and sees that Kloudia is has been screaming in her chair and cowering with fear.

Kloudia’s father, who has been paying for these therapist sessions, suddenly bursts into the room with Kloudia’s mother (played by Leong Cheok Mei), because they’ve heard all the commotion on the room. (Kloudia’s parents don’t have names in the movie.) Ching immediately accuses Kloudia’s father of abusing Kloudia.

Kloudia’s mother scoffs at this accusation and defneds her husband by saying that he’s a good man. Kloudia’s father also denies the abuse and questions Ching’s competence. Needless to say, that’s the last time that Kloudia has a session with Ching. But it won’t be the last time that Kloudia is in the movie.

The homicide detective who is the lead investigator for the Chu family murders is a bachelor named Ho Shun Fatt (played by Philip Keung), who is tough on the outside, but he can be tender on the inside. His tenderness mainly comes from taking care of a foster daughter named Dao-Dao (played by Keira Wang), who is about 6 or 7 years old. Dao-Dao is intelligent and adorable.

The movie doesn’t really explain Dao-Dao’s background and how Fatt ended up being her foster father. However, it’s shown more than once in the movie that Fatt gets so busy with his work, he’s sometimes late in picking up Dao-Dao from school. Dao-Dao has an easygoing schoolteacher named Cheung (played by Babyjohn Choi), who usually looks after Dao-Dao until Fatt arrives to pick up Dao-Dao from school.

Around the same time that the Chu family murders are being investigated, Ching does a speaking appearance at a local university. The subject is psychiatry and the human condition. Two people are interviewed on stage for this speaking appearance: Ching and a well-known psychiatrist named Dr. Yan Chung Kwong (played by Tse Kwan Ho), who has beliefs that are the opposite of Ching’s. For example, Ching is more likely than Kwong to believe that mental illness can cause people to commit murder.

Ching tells the audience that people are inherently good, while Kwong tells the audience that people are inherently bad. He says it’s why laws are in place to prevent people to giving in to their natural impulses to sin and to punish people who break the laws. Kwong believes that if people were inherently good, there wouldn’t be a need for these laws in the first place. Kwong later says in the movie, “The more evil someone is, the more likely they are to pretend otherwise.”

Kwong is a mysterious, middle-aged bachelor whose past is explained at one point in the movie. He was living in Europe for several years but recently moved back to his native Hong Kong. Ching becomes suspicious of Kwong when she finds out that several of his past and present Hong Kong patients, who had no prior history of violence, have been murdering people. Former social worker Yung is one of those patients. Kwong had recently been treating Yung for anxiety and depression.

Fatt reports to the no-nonsense Inspector To (played by Leung Kin Ping) and has two younger subordinates who are working closely with him on this case: Officer Choy (played by Locker Lam) and Officer Judy (played by Fung Hoi Yui), who are all somewhat generic characters. Fatt is the police detective with the most clearly defined personality and the best lines of dialogue. He’s diligent about his work in the office and out in the field. He also doesn’t like to jump to conclusions and likes to gather as many facts as possible.

The investigation takes Fatt and his colleagues to various places. One of them is Ping Che Nursing Home, where a young male nurse named Lau Po Keung (played by Ling Man Lung) comes under suspicion when two of his elderly patients—a man named Chiu (played by Mak Lok Sun) and a woman named Mui (played by Yeung Yee Yee)—disappear from the nursing home. Keung’s co-worker Wong Zi Hin (played by Cheung Lap Fung) is also questioned.

One of the criticisms that “Shadows” might get is that it never fully explains how long Ching has had her psychic abilities. However, there are hints later in the movie that Ching probably didn’t have or wasn’t aware of these psychic abilities until she became an adult. Fatt wonders about Ching’s own mental stability when she becomes more insistent that Kwong is brainwashing his patients to commit murder. Fatt does a background check on Ching and finds out that Ching’s widower father Tsui Yong Sek (played by Ben Yuen) was a construction worker who has recently been released from prison.

“Shadows” is occasionally gruesome in some of its horror aspects. Viewers who get easily squeamish should be warned that there’s a scene that involves a murderer removing skin from someone’s body—not in full, explicit details, but blood and the skinning aftermath are shown. The police procedural aspects of “Shadows” move along at a very good pace. And the banter between Ching and Fatt is interesting to watch, even if Keung’s cop character is the type of police officer who has been in many other movies and TV shows.

Tang gives the best performance of the cast members, since her character is the most complex and the most unique. Tse is also noteworthy for his unsettling performance as Kwong. Up until a certain point in the movie, viewers will be wondering if Kwong is a cynical psychiatrist, or if he is truly evil. The answer is revealed about halfway through “Shadows,” but this revelation doesn’t take away from the suspense that this flawed but fascinating horror movie has to offer.

One Cool Pictures and M2M Entertainment released “Shadows” in select U.S. cinemas on July 14, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on February 23, 2023, and in Singapore on March 2, 2023.

Review: ‘Over My Dead Body’ (2023), starring Teresa Mo, Wong You Nam, Ronald Cheng, Jennifer Yu, Lau Kong, Bonnie Wong and Hanna Chan

May 27, 2023

by Carla Hay

Alan Yeung Wai Lun, Teresa Mo, Wong You Nam and Jennifer Yu in “Over My Dead Body” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films and Imagi Crystal Studio)

“Over My Dead Body” (2023)

Directed by Ho Cheuk Tin

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the comedy film “Over My Dead Body” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Some residents and employees of a co-op apartment building try to hide the body of an unidentified naked man who was found in a hallway of the building.

Culture Audience: “Over My Dead Body” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching a shallow “screwball” comedy that makes no sense.

Bonnie Wong and Lau Kong in “Over My Dead Body” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films and Imagi Crystal Studio)

“Over My Dead Body” is a comedy that’s as creatively inert as a corpse. This repetitive and frequently incoherent movie, which is about people trying to hide a body, is plagued by annoying plot holes, scatterbrained characters and a foolish ending. And with a total running time of two hours, “Over My Dead Body” is entirely too long for the movie’s flimsy story.

Directed by Ho Cheuk Tin and Kong Ho-Yan, “Over My Dead Body” is about several residents and employees of a Hong Kong co-op apartment building trying to hide the body of an unidentified naked man in his 30s (played by Kenneth Cheung), who was found in a hallway of the building. There’s also a clumsy subplot about a young woman who doesn’t live in the building but is getting married. Don’t try to make any sense of what happens in this moronic film, which quickly grows tiresome with all the shrieking and yelling over what do to about this stranger’s body.

“Over My Dead Body” begins by showing the family members who end up discovering the body outside their apartment unit. The apartment building, located in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district, is an upscale, 25-floor building called Seaside Heights, which has 100 apartment units. Seaside Heights is marketed as evoking an “exquisite French lifestyle,” according to an ad shown in the movie.

There’s really nothing French about this apartment building. It’s just an excuse for the movie to have a bizarre fantasy sequence of many of the apartment building residents dressed in 18th century-styled French costumes, as if they’re about to have tea with Marie Antoinette. The movie has even more weirdness—and not in a good way.

There are five family members living in the apartment unit where the body is found outside the unit. Before this shocking discovery, tensions were already running high in the family. The apartment unit is owned by divorcée Meghan So (played by Teresa Mo), who is the household’s primary source of income.

Meghan shows a lot of resentment over having to carry most of the financial burden for everyone in the household. Also living in the household is Meghan’s daughter Yana Chung (played by Jennifer Yu), a flight attendant whose husband Ming To (played by Wong You Nam) is currently unemployed. Yana and Ming have an adorable daughter named Yoyo (played by Lau Ying Yu), who’s about 5 years old.

Meghan has another child named Kingston Chung (played by Alan Yeung Wai Lun, also known as Yeung Wai Lun), Yana’s goofy younger brother who is also unemployed. However, Meghan shows much more tolerance for Kingston than she does for Yana. Kingston says he will be able to make money when he launches his “brand.” The movie later reveals that Kingston wants to start a company called the Anti-Facial Social Club, which sells facial stickers designed to prevent facial recognition done by technology.

One of the early scenes in the movie shows Meghan clashing with Yana and Ming when the spouses talk about their desire to move out so they can have more space to raise Yoyo. Meghan warns the couple that it would be expensive for Yana and Ming to get their own place on the couple’s limited income. This leads to more complaining from Meghan about how she has to pay most of the living expenses in the household.

During this argument, someone happens to open the front door to the apartment unit. The arguing family members are shocked to see a naked man slumped on the hallway floor in front of the unit. No one in the family knows who he is and have never seen this stranger before.

When they determine that the man is dead, everyone except Meghan immediately wants to call for help. Kingston goes as far as dialing 999 (the emergency number in Hong Kong), but Meghan forces him to hang up before he can say what the problem is. Meghan yells at everyone that if the news got out that there was a naked dead man found in the building, then the building’s property value will decrease.

The rest of the movie shows various people finding out about the body and trying to hide it too. An elderly couple named Boron Chan (played by Lau Kong) and Betty Chan (played by Bonnie Wong), who are retired schoolteachers, are very superstitious. They want to hide the body because they think if they don’t hide the body, then people will think the building is haunted. Boron is also the treasurer for this co-op building.

A bachelorette named Mary Tse (played by Grace Wu) is described as a “young single mother” who is very protective of her baby, which she covers up in a carriage when she goes out in public. But surprise! It’s revealed early on in the movie that Mary’s “baby” is really a small dog. Dogs are not allowed in the building.

Meghan threatens to tell the building management that Mary has a dog, which is why Mary goes along with the plan to hide the body. Mary has a maid named Nancy (played by Valenzuela Lucy Navarette), who gets ensnared in the body-hiding conspiracy because Mary threatens to have Nancy deported back to Thailand if she doesn’t cooperate. “I’m from the Philippines,” Nancy tells Mary. This is what’s supposed to pass as “comedy” in “Over My Dead Body.”

Other people who get involved in hiding the body are a taxi driver named Bear Cheung (played by Ronny Cheng), who lives in the building and has a strained relationship with his son Mesai Cheung (played by Edan Lui), who is in his early 20s. Bear and Mesai have lived together, ever since Bear’s wife/Edan’s mother (played by Xenia Chong, shown in flashbacks) left them and had a bitter divorce. Mesai blames Bear for the breakup of the marriage.

Mesai is a video game/computer enthusiast. Somehow, he has found a way to hack into the building’s video surveillance system. It becomes a subplot in the movie when the building’s security chief S.G. Lee (played by Jiro Lee) finds out about the body too. S.G. Lee brags that he knows who all the building residents are, but he does not know who the mysterious nude man is and how he got into the building.

As already revealed in the trailer for “Over My Dead Body,” some of the apartment dwellers end up in a jail cell, where they meet a bride-to-be named Sue Yu (played by Hanna Chan), who gets mixed up in this awful mess. And where is Yoyo during all of these silly antics? She’s conveniently kept out of sight for most of the movie, which only shows Yoyo for some “cute kid” moments.

“Over My Dead Body” is a stagnant cesspool of irritating characters shrieking, hollering, and doing things that never look believable. None of the acting in this movie is any good. The movie’s direction and film editing are often unfocused, jumping from one character to the next in clumsy ways. The sloppy screenplay leaves no room for character development.

The movie saved the worst parts for last. In the movie’s last 15 minutes, when it’s revealed who the mystery stranger is, “Over My Dead Body” takes an abrupt turn into phony sentimentality. The movie, which was already failing to be amusing, tried to be an edgy and irreverent satire about status-conscious people for most of the story. In the end, “Over My Dead Body” just turns into a huge, mushy plothole that insults viewers’ intelligence.

Illume Films and Imagi Crystal Studio released “Over My Dead Body” in select U.S. cinemas on May 19, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on March 24, 2023.

Review: ‘Lost Love’ (2023), starring Sammi Cheng and Alan Luk

May 16, 2023

by Carla Hay

Ng Tsz Kiu and Sammi Cheng in “Lost Love” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films and Imagi Crystal)

“Lost Love” (2023)

Directed by Ka Sing Fung

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place over 13 years in Hong Kong, the dramatic film “Lost Love” features an almost all-Asian cast of characters (with one biracial person) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: After losing their son in a tragic accident, two spouses become foster parents to several children, who have various personal issues.

Culture Audience: “Lost Love” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching a simple but effective story about love between foster parents and their foster children.

Sammi Cheng, Jiu Kai Nam Matt and Alan Luk in “Lost Love” (Photo courtesy of Illume Films and Imagi Crystal)

Beautifully filmed and simply told, “Lost Love” is a “slice of life” drama that centers on a married couple’s 13-year journey as foster parents to a variety of children, after the couple lost their own child to a tragedy. It’s a movie puts an emphasis on realism instead of heavy melodrama. Therefore, scenes in “Lost Love” that show everyday life routines might be too dull for some viewers. However, the movie has much deeper meaning in how it depicts coping with grief over the loss of a loved one.

Directed by Ka Sing Fung (who co-wrote the “Lost Love” screenplay with Lo Kim Fei), “Lost Love” (which takes place in Hong Kong) begins by showing Chan Tin Mei (played by Sammi Cheng) on a school bus. She’s talking to the driver, who is one of her co-workers. The driver says that they lost a bid that year and the bus’ owner (whose name is Fat) is selling the bus.

At home, Mei and her husband, Ho Bun (played by Alan Luk), feel a void in their lives. Their son Toh (played by Wong Tsz Hin, in flashback scenes) died from a drowning accident at the age of 6 or 7. Mei’s income will be affected by the bus sale, so she suggests to Bun that they become foster parents. At first, Mei is only thinking of the extra income that they can get from the government for being foster parents. She has no idea how deeply affected she will be by the foster children who come into her life.

Before officially becoming foster parents, Mei and Bun have to be approved by child welfare services. A government social worker named Miss Mok (played by Hedwig Tam) is their main liaison who does the inspections and evaluations. After inspecting the home, Miss Mok tells Mei and Bun (who are both smokers) that the only thing they need to do if they are to be approved as foster parents is not smoke inside the house.

Mei and Bun’s first foster child is named Sam (played by Wong Tsz Lok Sean), who is about 5 or 6 years old. Sam is shy and somewhat anxious child who wets his bed. Sam’s single mother is unable to take care of him. Mei is much more impatient than Bun when it comes to take care of children, so she gets easily irritated by Sam’s bedwetting problems.

One night, Sam’s biological mother shows up at the home unannounced and physically attacks Mei before Mei is able to fight her off. It’s a shocking incident that could have turned Mei off from being a foster parent. Instead, it’s a turning point for Mei, because she begins to understand that Sam’s bedwetting comes from untold trauma that he probably experienced because of his dysfunctional biological family.

Bun remains a consistently laid-back and supportive parent throughout this journey. Mei’s evolution is much more fascinating to watch, because she went to foster care thinking it was just a temporary way to make extra money and it became the type of rewarding experienced that can be labeled with a price tag. She becomes so devoted to her foster children that Bun starts to feel a bit neglected in the marriage.

“Lost Love” is almost like an anthology film with segments that show the different experiences that Mei and Bun have with their foster children over the 13-year period. One of the most memorable parts of the movie is how Mei teaches a foster daughter named Fleur (played by Ng Tsz Kiu), who’s about 7 ot 8 years old, how to have confidence when she is teased and bullied by other students because of having a cleft lip. Other foster children featured in the movie are quiet Ching (played by Leoni Li), who’s about 3 years old and who learns how to make dumplings from Mei; friendly Ming (played by Jiu Kai Nam Matt), who injures him arm; mischievous brother and sister Lee Ka Long (played by Tsui Ka Him) and Lee Ka Hei (played by Tsang Yui Tung Maya); and unnamed 17-year-old biracial boy (played by Toure Muntar), who appears to be of Asian and African heritage.

“Lost Love” also has poignant references to flowers and a certain bridge, whose significance is explained at one point in the movie. The last 20 minutes of “Lost Love” are emotionally powerful. Cheng gives a quietly outstanding performance in this contemplative film that is not only about recovering from the loss of a loved one but also discovering new ways to love that are unexpected and meaningful.

Illume Films and Imagi Crystal released “Lost Love” in select U.S. cinemas on May 12, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on March 2, 2023.

Review: ‘Say I Do to Me,’ starring Sabrina Ng, Chan Kin-Long, Candy Lo, Mixon Wong, Yat Ning Chan and Jacky Tong Hoo-lin

April 25, 2023

by Carla Hay

Sabrina Ng in “Say I Do to Me” (Photo courtesy of Edko Films Ltd.)

“Say I Do to Me”

Directed by Kiwi Chow

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the comedy film “Say I Do to Me” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A social media personality, who has crafted an image of being happily single, decides to stage a public wedding where she will marry herself, while she hides the fact that she has a boyfriend, who is jealous and insecure about her admirers who want to date her.

Culture Audience: “Say I Do to Me” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching a romantic comedy that goes off in different directions with many fake-looking scenes.

Chan Kin-Long and Sabrina Ng in “Say I Do to Me” (Photo courtesy of Edko Films Ltd.)

The comedy misfire “Say I Do to Me” ruins an interesting concept (a social media personality wants to marry herself in a public ceremony) with too many awkwardly staged scenarios and horrible dialogue. It’s trying to be cute but it’s all very annoying. The wedding ceremony is supposed to be the big climax to the movie. After all the buildup, the last 20 minutes of the film, which were supposed to be the best section of the film, is actually the worst. It’s just a mess that drags on for far too long.

Directed by Kiwi Chow, “Say I Do to Me” has several subplots that never really gel in a cohesive way. The story jumps from subplot to subplot, bringing up many questions that the movie never bothers to answer. It doesn’t help that the protagonist of “Say I Do to Me” is very flaky and not very interesting. And almost all of the characters are written and portrayed in such superficial and hollow ways, they seem more like caricatures than relatable people. “Say I Do to Me” director Chow co-wrote the movie’s disjointed screenplay with Frankie Wang-Kit Chung and Isis Tso Yin-Sin.

In “Say I Do to Me” (which takes place in Hong Kong), Ping Cheung (played by Sabrina Ng) is a semi-successful social media personality who is mainly on YouTube and Instagram. Ping, who is in her early 20s, has about 1 million followers on Instagram, but throughout the movie, it’s shown that Pink has hasn’t had much luck getting sponsors. In other words, she has a large audience but hasn’t found a way to make money from the social media platforms that she uses. And in this day and age, 1 million followers on Instagram, although commendable, is still a low number for someone who expects to get rich from social media.

Ping has made a name for herself by creating a media platform brand called Sologamy. The concept for Sologamy is to celebrate self-love and to be unapologetically single in a society that pressures people to get married or be in a committed romantic relationship. Publicly, Ping has an image of being a happily single and not currently dating anyone.

Privately, Ping has been dating Dickson (played by Chan Kin-Long), who is her live-in boyfriend. Ping and Dickson have known each other since they were in middle school. Dickson handles all the technical aspects of Ping’s social media accounts.

Even though Ping and Dickson are a “couple,” the movie oddly never shows Ping and Dickson having any romantic moments together throughout the story. It’s one of many things about “Say I Do to Me” that make it look like a phony and not well-made. In various parts of the movie, Dickson gets jealous when a few of Ping’s admirers start courting her. She has to pretend that she’s available, which infuriates Dickson even more.

The subplots involve the various entanglements that Ping has with people who are in and out of the movie in scenes that don’t flow well together. (In other words, the film editing is pretty bad.) Ping does some voiceover narration explaining who these people are, but some of these characters are still introduced in ways that might confuse some viewers.

Stephanie Cheung (played by Yat Ning Chan) is a rich and famous relative of Ping’s. Stephanie is 39 years old. And she calls herself Ping’s older sister. But surprise! Somehow, someone in Ping’s audience found out that Stephanie is really Ping’s mother. Ping then has to make an apologetic confession video to her audience.

The movie never gives an adequate explanation for why Stephanie insists on Ping acting like Stephanie like a sister instead of a mother. It’s also never explained how long Stephanie and Ping were lying about the true nature of ther family relationship. It’s implied that Stephanie has some mental health issues and is emotionally immature.

Stephanie treats marriage and divorce like redecorating. She’s been married and divorced six times. Stephanie also overshares too many details about her love life with Ping, which is one of the reasons Ping has tried to distance herself from Stephanie. Stephanie’s cavalier attitude toward marriage has also made Ping wary of getting married.

One day, Ping gets a promising invitation to meet with a potential sponsor. He’s a successful and handsome 30-year-old businessman named Charles Ko (played by Mixon Wong), who invites Ping to his office for an interview. It soon becomes obvious that Charles is romantically attracted to Ping. The problem is that Charles is dating one of his employees named Kitty (played by J. Lou), who is very jealous. Kitty is barely in the movie, and when she is, her scenes look very forced and clumsy.

Tsz “Daniel” Chun (played by Jacky Tong Hoo-lin) is a platonic friend of Ping’s but he is romantically attracted to her too. Daniel is nerdy and timid. He’s also a very religious Christian. Ping is a Christian too, but she’s not as devoted to praying and going to church as Daniel is. Ping employs Daniel to do part-time work for her, such as giving her car rides and doing errands. He eagerly accepts any offer to spend time with her.

Another admirer who wants to get close to Ping is Yi “Yee” Lok (played by Candy Lo), who owns a flower shop called Mona Lisa. Yee is a stranger who is an avid follower of Ping on social media. Yee and her devoted husband Kenneth (played by Gregory Wong) have been married for 20 years. Yee contacts Ping to meet her in person because Yee says she might want to sponsor Ping and possibly become her friend. Yee also has a big secret that she eventually confesses to Ping.

Speaking of friends, Ping is never shown having any close platonic friends besides Daniel. The movie never explains if Ping was always a loner type or if her social media obsession negatively affected her ability to make friends in the real world. “Say I Do to Me” has no character development for Ping. This very unfunny movie is just a series of poorly edited scenes that are filmed like scenes from a substandard sitcom.

Ping’s self-wedding day is supposed to be a major event for her, but she’s hardly seen planning it for most of the movie until a few hastily crammed-together scenes toward the end of the film. “Say I Do to Me” also goes off on a mishandled, weird tangent about Internet haters harassing Ping in person: These agitators are disguised as stuffed animals. And because Ping and Dickson do not have convincing romantic chemistry with each other, the stakes are non-existent in the Ping/Dickson relationship when Ping gets romantic attention from other people.

“Say I Do to Me” is the type of overstuffed film that tries to do too many things but ends up not saying or doing anything substantial. It could have been a hilarious story about the pitfalls of inventing a fake persona online, but the comedy and characters are completely bungled in this movie. The acting performances range from bland to barely watchable. Ironically, for a movie about someone who’s created a fake persona online, “Say I Do to Me” doesn’t look believable at all.

Edko Films Ltd. released “Say I Do to Me” in select U.S. cinemas on April 21, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on January 26, 2023.

Review: ‘The Sparring Partner,’ starring Yeung Wei Lun, Mak Pui Tung, Louisa So, Michael Chow and Jan Lamb

April 1, 2023

by Carla Hay

Pictured in front: Louisa So, Mak Pui Tung, Yeung Wei Lun and Lin Haifeng in “The Sparring Partner” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“The Sparring Partner”

Directed by Ho Cheuk Tin

Cantonese, English and German with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place from 2012 to 2015, in Hong Kong, the dramatic film “The Sparring Partner” (based on real events) features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An affluent young man and his intellectually disabled friend are pitted against each other when they go on trial for the brutal murder of the affluent man’s parents, and jurors must decide how much responsibility each man has in this horrific crime.

Culture Audience: “The Sparring Partner” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in true crime stories and suspenseful movies that have courtroom drama.

Matt Chow in “The Sparring Partner” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

Even though “The Sparring Partner” has a total running time that is a little too long (138 minutes), it’s still a gripping true crime drama that gives a memorable portrait of a twisted killer’s mind. The movie serves as a warning about a sociopath’s personality traits. “The Sparring Partner” achieves a challenging task of looking at a courtroom trial from different perspectives.

Directed by Ho Cheuk Tin, “The Sparring Partner” is based on the true story of the Tai Kok Tsui double homicide: In Tai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong, 65-year-old Glory Chau Wing-ki and his 63-year-old wife Moon Siu Yuet-yee were viciously murdered in 2013. They were also dismembered, and their body parts cooked and stored in a refrigerator. Their youngest son Henry Chau Hoi-leung (who was 29 at the time of the murder) and his friend Angus Tse Chun-kei (who was 35 at the time of the murder) went on trial together in 2015 for this double homicide, among other crimes related to the murders. The nine-person jury not only had to decide if the defendants were guilty or not guilty but also how much responsibility each defendant had in planning and committing the crimes.

What makes “The Sparring Partner” a little more complex and more intriguing than the average courtroom drama is that flashbacks shown during each defendant’s testimony often show the attorneys and jurors also in the flashbacks as observers or commentators. Each defendant has a different version of what happened before, during and after the murders. And therefore, the reactions can vary from the people who weren’t actually there.

In addition, the movie takes viewers inside the jury deliberation room, where the jurors argue, debate and reveal their own personal biases. All of these perspectives could easily turn into a jumbled mess, but “The Sparring Partner” keeps everything mostly cohesive and easy to understand. Much of it has to do with the movie’s suspenseful screenplay, written by Frankie Tam, Kwong Yuen, Oliver Yip and Thomas Leung.

In “The Sparring Partner,” the son on trial for murdering his parents is named Henry Cheung (played by Yeung Wei Lun), who is portrayed as a cold-hearted manipulator who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else in the investigation. It’s revealed during the trial that Henry isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, because was arrested after bragging about the crime on social media. Henry’s accused accomplice is mild-mannered Angus Tong (played by Mak Pui Tung, also known as Mai Peidong), who has mental-health issues and intellectual disabilities after suicide attempts when he was younger left him with brain damage.

Henry’s attorney Wu Guanfeng (played by Lin Haifeng) argues that Angus is mostly to blame, since he was the one who committed most of the violence. Angus’ attorney Carrie You (played by Louisa So, also known as Su Yuhua) argues that Henry is mostly to blame, since he was the mastermind who planned everything and pressured Angus to participate. The prosecutor Ellen Chu (played by Zhou Wenjian) argues that Henry and Angus are equally responsible and should be punished accordingly. The judge (played by Michael Chow) often has to restore order in the court when things get too contentious.

One of the things that Henry claims in his testimony was that his father Cheung Kuen Kawai (played by Au Shiu Hee James) was abusive to his wife Shiu Suet Yee (played by Chan Fung-Kam) and son Hin Jo. It sets off a heated discussion over whether or not this claim of domestic violence is believable and how it should be judged in this case. “The Sparring Partner” also depicts the media coverage in the case and how that coverage can influence the court of public opinion.

Some of the other supporting characters are Tang Wenshan (played by Yang Shimin), Angus’ sister, who gives some heart-wrenching testimony; Henry’s older brother Cheung Hin Jo (played by Chu Pak-Him), who was the one who reported their parents as missing; and attorney Wilson Ying (played by Jan Lamb), who is on Henry’s defense team. “The Sparring Partner” also shows how police law enforcement investigated the case, which Superintendent Kam (played by Matt Chow) leading the investigation.

The movie has somewhat unnecessary scenes of the jury selection, where people are shown giving excuses for what they can’t serve on the jury. Some of these potential jurors are dismissed, while others are not. One of the standouts in the jury is former teacher Liu Men Yan (played by Ursule Wong), who is very opinionated.

“The Sparring Partner” pulls off a very good balancing act of showing testimony coming to life and showing people’s reactions, based on their own agendas and prejudices. Many people who watch this movie already know what was the outcome of the trial. But whether or not viewers know what the trial verdict was in real life, “The Sparring Partner” gives a fascinating story about how facts, truth and justice aren’t necessarily working in tandem with each other during a trial, and are definitely not viewed the same way by different people.

Well Go USA released “The Sparring Partner” in select U.S. cinemas on December 9, 2022. The movie was released in Hong Kong on October 27, 2022. Well Go USA will release “The Sparring Partner” on digital and VOD on April 4, 2023.

Review: ‘Everything Under Control,’ starring Hins Cheung, Ivana Wong, Jeffrey Ngai Tsun Sang, Michael Ning and Kaho Hing

January 22, 2023

by Carla Hay

Hins Cheung, Michael Ning and Jeffrey Ngai Tsun Sang in “Everything Under Control” (Photo courtesy of Trinity Filmed Entertainment)

“Everything Under Control”

Directed by Ying Chi-Wen

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the action comedy film “Everything Under Control,” a remake of the 2004 South Korean horror comedy “To Catch a Virgin Ghost,” features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with a few white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: After a jewelry heist goes wrong, two armed guards and a robber go to a remote jungle to find the armed guard who stole the jewelry, and they all encounter a strange commune that appears to be protected by a ghost.

Culture Audience: “Everything Under Control” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of “To Catch a Virgin Ghost” and action movies that have a lot of moronic comedy that just isn’t funny.

Ivana Wong in “Everything Under Control” (Photo courtesy of Trinity Filmed Entertainment)

“Everything Under Control” squanders the potential to be an entertaining and zany heist film, by overloading on repetitive gimmick jokes, tacky visual effects, and nonsensical, time-wasting scenes that lower the quality of this already bad movie. The cast members try too hard to funny, giving “Everything Under Control” a forced and awkward tone. The movie also goes off on some bizarre tangents that don’t fit the intended comedy at all.

Directed by Ying Chi-Wen, “Everything Under Control” (which takes place in Hong Kong) is a remake of the 2004 South Korean horror comedy “To Catch a Virgin Ghost,” which had another remake with the 2021 Taiwanese film “Trick or Treat.” “Everything Under Control” is much more of an action film than a horror movie, since there’s nothing remotely scary about “Everything Under Control,” unless you think it’s scary that people actually thought this awful movie was worth getting made.

“Everything Under Control” begins by showing a group of employees who work for a company called So Good Security, whose specialty is armored vehicle transportation. The company’s drivers (who are all men in their 20s and 30s) look up to the “alpha male” of the group: Yau Shing (played by Hins Cheung), who is a cocky and rebellious guy. Yau Shing has been tasked with training a rookie named Penguin (played by Jeffrey Nagai Tsun Sang), who is very nervous and insecure.

One day, a group of So Good Security employees are driving in an armored van for a delivery of valuable diamonds. In the vehicle are Yau Shing, Penguin, an awkward misfit named Jelly (played by Kaho Hung) and a loudmouth named Pig Blood (played by Hou Dee). During this ride, Yau Shing brags that he’s “seen it all” in this security job, except that he’s never experienced a robbery.

As soon as Yau Shing says that, you just know a robbery is going to happen. The leader of the armed robbers is an ill-tempered buffoon named Monk (played by Michael Ning), who isn’t as tough as he’d like to think he is. The real menacing thug in this gang of thieves is Monk’s boss Mr. Lai (played by Juno Mak), who is sadistic and ruthless. Mr. Lai isn’t actually at the scene of the robbery, by he’s the mastermind behind this heist.

A chaotic shootout occurs during the robbery. Jelly tries to be a flashy hero by spinning around a shotgun, but the shotgun ends up landing on his head. It’s enough to knock him temporarily unconscious. The robbers are so inept, they don’t notice until it’s too late that they don’t have any of the diamonds. Jelly has suddenly disappeared, so Yau Shing, Penguin, Pig Blood are kidnapped by the robbers and taken to the back of a butcher shop, where Mr. Lai orders that these captives undergo water torture to try to force them to tell the robbers where the diamonds are.

What happened to the diamonds? Jelly stole the diamonds. When it becomes obvious that Yau Shing, Penguin, Pig Blood don’t have the diamonds, and Jelly stole these jewels, Mr. Lai decides that Monk will accompany Yau Shing and Penguin to look for Jelly. Pig Blood is left behind in the butcher shop and will experience more torture unless Yau Shing and Penguin can find Jelly and the diamonds.

During his getaway, Jelly accidentally crashes his car in a remote jungle area. He makes his way through the jungle and finds a weird commune of five people (two women and three men), who have rituals that look very much like these commune members are in a cult. The group’s domineering leader is Wong Cool (played by Ivana Wong), who tells Jelly that the group doesn’t want to help him because they don’t trust outsiders.

While Jelly is using a toilet on the commune’s premises , he makes the mistake of leaving his phone outside with the commune members. When the phone rings, one of the commune members answers it and finds out that it’s a very agitated Yau Shing looking for Jelly and the diamonds. The commune now knows that Jelly wants to go into hiding, so they hold him captive.

Monk, Yau Shing and Penguin somehow find out that Jelly is in this wooded area and go looking for him. The rest of “Everything Under Control” involves a battle between the commune members and this search party. There’s also a very mishandled subplot involving a young woman ghost named Chi (played by Suey Kwok), who appears to be haunting the commune’s property and scaring off unwanted visitors. An artist painter named Poussin (played by Angus Yeung) offers some clues about the mystery behind the ghost.

“Everything Under Control” has some gross-out comedy involving defecation and farting that is so unnecessary, it’s really pathetic. It’s the type of slapstick set-up that looks like it came from the mind of a 10-year-old child. All of the movie’s characters are hollow—either too ridiculous to be relatable or too generic to be interesting. The title “Everything Under Control” is a contradiction of this mess of a movie, which is an example of filmmakers who let a potentially hilarious action flick descend into mindless chaos.

Trinity Filmed Entertainment released “Everything Under Control” in select U.S. cinemas on January 20, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on January 21, 2023.

Review: ‘Hong Kong Family,’ starring Teresa Mo, Tse Kwan-Ho, Edan Liu, Hedwig Tam, Angela Yuen and Anson Lo

January 21, 2023

by Carla Hay

Tse Kwan-Ho, Hedwig Tam, Leung Cho Yiu, Teresa Mo, Fung So Bar, Luk Sze Wong and Edan Lui in “Hong Kong Family” (Photo courtesy of Edko Films Ltd.)

“Hong Kong Family”

Directed by Eric Tsang

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the dramatic film “Hong Kong Family” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: During a winter solstice family dinner, a violent fight tears the family apart, and eight years later, a visiting relative hopes to bring the estranged family members back together for another winter solstice dinner.

Culture Audience: “Hong Kong Family” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in capably acted dramas about family relationship problems, even if some of these issues have been presented in similar ways in much better movies.

Teresa Mo and Angela Yuen in “Hong Kong Family” (Photo courtesy of Edko Films Ltd.)

Sometimes realistic, sometimes overly melodramatic, “Hong Kong Family” is saved from an uneven story by good acting from most of the cast members. It’s yet another movie about family members who gather for a holiday meal, start arguing, and then let resentments fester for a long time. The big question these types of movies usually have is: “Will the feuding family members reconcile?” “Hong Kong Family” has an authentic-looking portrayal for the way the movie answers this question. Viewers will have to wait until the end of the movie to find out if there is any reconciliation.

Directed by Eric Tsang (who co-wrote the “Hong Kong Family” screenplay with Shiu-Wa Lou and Leung Chuen Yeung), “Hong Kong Family” begins with a Hong Kong family of four driving in a car to a grandmother’s house for a family gathering to celebrate winter solstice. During this drive, tension is brewing between the two spouses. Outspoken wife Ling (played by Teresa Mo), who works as a housecleaner, is complaining because her mild-mannered husband Chun (played by Tse Kwan-Ho), who’s a taxi driver by trade, is currently unemployed.

Ling gripes about being the family’s sole source of income: “Don’t just depend on me.” Chun suggests that they sell their apartment for which they still have a mortgage, but this idea gets Ling even more agitated. Finally, to get Ling to calm down, Chun says that he has an upcoming job interview. Also in the car are this couple’s children: 20-year-old daughter Ki (played by Hedwig Tam) and son Yeung (played by Edan Liu), who’s about 17 or 18.

The family is driving to the house of Ling’s mother (played by Fung So Bar), who does not have a name in the movie. Also at this family gathering are Ling’s brother Ming (played by Leung Cho Yiu) and Ming’s wife Samantha (played by Luk Sze Wong). Ming’s mother dislikes Samantha so much, she won’t call Samantha by her first name and will only call her “that woman.” Ming and Samantha have an underage daughter, who is not at this family gathering, because Ming and Samantha won’t let Ming’s mother see this grandchild.

Not long after the family has gathered, the arguments start. Ming sees his mother furtively counting a hidden stash money in another room. Ming accuses her of counting the money because he thinks she’s suspicious that he stole cash from her. Ming’s mother denies it, but then she verbally lashes out at him because she gave money to Ming and Samantha for a start-up business that failed. Ming’s mother also has a lot of anger over not being able to see the daughter of Ming and Samantha.

After having a somewhat tense meal with the family, Ming eventually storms out of the house because his mother keeps calling Samantha “that woman,” after Ming tells his mother to stop doing that. And soon, two other members of the family will be leaving the house with bad feelings. One of them will stay away for eight years.

Ling and Chun are in a room together when Ling tells Chun that she wants a divorce. A stunned Chun has what can best be described as a meltdown that contradicts his usually easygoing personality. At first Chun, who doesn’t want to get divorced, tries to reason with Ling. When she says she won’t change her mind, he becomes infuriated, takes a knife and waves it in her face in a threatening manner as he yells at her.

Yeung hears the commotion and bursts into the room. He tries to defend and protect his mother. Chun and Yeung get into a scuffle that ends when Chun slaps Yeung hard in the face. A terrified Ling and Yeung then run way from the house.

The movie then fast-forwards eight years later. Chun and Ling are still married but are very emotionally distant from each other. It’s then revealed that after the violent fight with his father, Yeung immediately moved out of his parents’ apartment and has not been back to visit any family member’s home for the past eight years. Yeung will occasionally talk to Ling and Ki, but Yeung refuses to speak to Chun.

Meanwhile, Ki is now divorced and has moved back in with her parents. Chun has gone back to being a taxi driver, while Ling is still a housecleaner. In a conversation that Ki has with a potential new boyfriend, Ki says that she got married in her early 20s to move out of her parents’ home, but the marriage lasted only two years. Ki is currently drifting with no real goals or plans for her life.

As for Yeung, he graduated from college, and he is now a developer for a technology start-up business that he founded with his talkative and hyper best friend Birdy (played by Anson Lo), who is the company’s only other employee. The two pals want their company’s specialty to be video games. However, Yeung has invented a virtual-reality experience where people wearing a headset can have two-way conversations with a hologram of anyone they want.

This invention is a clunky part of the story that isn’t explained very well and is sort of dropped into the movie like a science-fiction subplot. Yeung is still working out some bugs in the invention’s artificial intelligence, and he really doesn’t want this game to be made available to the public. Birdy disagrees and thinks this invention should be marketed as a fun game.

In private, Yeung tests out the invention to “talk” to someone and confess his true feelings. (You don’t need to be a genius to figure out who that someone is.) Meanwhile, Birdy and Yeung meet with a wealthy potential client: a famous video gamer, who uses the alias Brother Love (played by Chow Chi Fai). Brother Love has got some family heartache of his own.

Meanwhile, Ling has a niece in her 20s named Joy (played by Angela Yuen) who is visiting Ling and Chun from the United Kingdom. Joy’s widower father, who was Ling’s brother, has recently died. And so, Joy has come to Hong Kong to be with her closest living relatives. When Joy finds out why Yeung has stayed away from family gatherings for the past eight years, she becomes motivated to try to reunite Yeung with the family for the upcoming winter solstice dinner.

Ki has stayed out of the conflicts between her brother Leung and their parents, because she’s got issues of her own with their parents. Ki thinks Ling is overbearing, while Ki thinks Chun doesn’t express his feelings very well. At a train station, Ki meets a stranger from Malaysia named Norman (played by Wong Po Cheung), and they strike up a mildly flirtatious conversation. Norman is a drifter who sells decorative rocks on the streets. He says he collects these rocks from places where he has been.

Norman and Ki go their separate ways at the train station without exchanging contact information. However, Norman tells Ki that she can look him up on Instagram, which is how she finds out where Norman is selling his rock collection in Hong Kong. Ki surprises Norman with a visit while he’s selling on the street, and they begin a low-key romance.

Some of the scenes in “Hong Kong Family” work very well, such as anything involving the dynamics between Chun and Ling, or the estrangement of Chun and Yeung. Other scenes are lackluster, awkward or sometimes seem out of place. Some characters outside of the main family are also underdeveloped. And for an unexplained reason, Ming and Samantha are never seen or talked about again after that winter solstice family dinner near the beginning of the movie.

Some of the scenes that could have used better character development are when Ling cleans the home of her affluent brother-in-law LK (played by Cheung Max Tat-Lun), who has an adorable nephew named Jayden (played Wong Tsz Lo), who’s about 6 or 7 years old. Ling likes spending time with Jayden, but LK makes Ling uncomfortable. It’s probably because LK treats Ling more like a housekeeper than a family member. She also can’t help but be envious that LK is better-off financially than Ling and Chun. These financial issues continue to put a strain on the couple’s marriage.

“Hong Kong Family” has ebbs and flows in the storyline. Some of it has meaningful and well-performed emotional scenes. Other parts of the movie look like “filler” scenes. Seasoned actors Mo and Tse give the best performances as Ling and Chun, who feel trapped in a marriage where the passion and trust have died. “Hong Kong Family” also credibly shows how family feuds can drag on when there’s a lack of communication or miscommunication.

Will family member Joy be the catalyst for a possible reconciliation between Chun and Yeung? And what about all of Ling and Chun’s marital problems? What will happen to Ki’s budding romance with Norman? Don’t expect the movie to answer all of these questions, because some things are left to a viewer’s speculation. However, by the end of “Hong Kong Family,” viewers will get a better sense of how these family members deal with the past, who they want in their present lives, and what they hope the future will hold for them.

Edko Films Ltd. released “Hong Kong Family” in select U.S. cinemas on January 6, 2023. The movie was released in Hong Kong on November 24, 2022.

Review: ‘Love Suddenly’ (2022), starring Michael Ning, Shirley Chan, Adam Pak, Roxanne Tong, Anson Kong, Karina Ng, Edward Ma and Chloe So

January 5, 2023

by Carla Hay

Shirley Chan and Michael Ning in “Love Suddenly” (Photo courtesy of Just Distribution Company Ltd.)

“Love Suddenly” (2022)

Directed by Mak Ho-Pong

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the romantic comedy/drama film “Love Suddenly” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Eight people who are connected to each other in some way have various ups and downs in finding love.

Culture Audience: “Love Suddenly” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching silly romantic comedies that have a lot of cringeworthy scenarios and conversations.

Karina Ng and Anson Kong in “Love Suddenly” (Photo courtesy of Just Distribution Company Ltd.)

“Love Suddenly” is just a poorly made ripoff of the “Love Actually” concept. Everything about “Love Suddenly” is embarrassing to all those involved. The movie is supposed to be a romantic comedy/drama, but some of the scenarios in “Love Suddenly” are actually very creepy, not romantic, such as presenting a Peeping Tom situation as being cute and endearing. Most people would not want to date someone they knew was spying on them in their bedroom without their consent. But don’t tell that to the filmmakers of “Love Suddenly,” who want to pretend that this voyeuristic crime is an effective way to get someone to fall in love with the voyeur.

Directed by Mak Ho-Pong, “Love Suddenly” focuses on eight people in their 20s and 30s. It’s easy to see that long before the movie is over, these eight people will be paired off into four love couples. Two of the people are already a couple at the beginning of the movie, but they argue, break up, and reunite multiples times in the movie. Viewers are supposed to wonder if this bickering duo will stay together or not. (We all know what the outcome will be in a predictable movie like “Love Suddenly.”)

The 2003 British film “Love Actually” takes place in and around London, close to Christmas. “Love Suddenly,” which is set in Hong Kong in the early 2020s, takes place close to Valentine’s Day. The eight people at the center of “Love Suddenly” act in ridiculous ways that are supposed to be amusing, but most of it just looks unrealistic and pathetic. And much of it is downright dull. Edmond Wong, Cheung Chun-Ho, Hayley Fu and Cyan Ho wrote the horrible screenplay for “Love Suddenly.”

Here are the eight people who are the movie’s main characters:

Wong Chung (played by Anson Kong) and Jenny, also known as Zoe (played by Karina Ng), are a dysfunctional couple who make a living by documenting their lives on social media. Their constant verbal conflicts (usually over jealousy or suspicion that someone in the relationship is unfaithful) gets very tedious, very quickly. There is absolutely no good reason presented in the movie for why this miserable couple is together, except that they have to put up a front for their social media business that they are in a happy and healthy relationship.

Pong Kong (played by Michael Ning) is a nerdy roommate of Chung and Jenny/Zoe. He has a crush on someone who has recently moved into the home as a fourth roommate: Shirley (played by Shirley Chan), a graduate student who previously lived in Australia. Shirley’s bedroom is right next to Kong’s bedroom. Kong becomes so obsessed with Shirley, he secretly bores a smale hole in his bedroom wall to spy on Shirley, who just so happens to be doing her graduate thesis on porn and the sex industry.

Jerome (played by Adam Pak) is a freewheeling bachelor, who works as a gigolo servicing women and men. He is hired by a shy, rich woman named Silver (played by Chloe So), who says she is very inexperienced in dating. Silver is so bashful about dating, she’s afraid of men touching her. You know where this storyline is going, of course.

Chi Ho (played by Edward Ma) is a ladies’ man who is dating two women at the same time. During a date at a restaurant with one of the women, she finds out that Ho has been cheating on her, so she stabs him in the hand with a restaurant utensil. Ho ends up in a hospital, where he is tended to by a nurse named Tin Tin (played by Roxanne Tong), who listens to Ho talk about problems in his love life. Tin Tin proudly declares to Ho that she is currently dating 10 men at the same time.

“Love Suddenly” throws in a bizarre and not-very-funny subplot of Silver’s domineering father Boss Dai (Cheung Tat Ming) disapproving of Jerome, who meets Silver’s father and mother (played by Yuen Kling Dan) during a family dinner. Boss Dai challenges Jerome to a drinking contest. If Jerome loses, he will agree to stop dating Silver. If Boss Dai loses, he will agree to stop bullying Silver. This drinking contest scene is nothing but terrible slapstick comedy that just wastes more time in this stupid and boring movie. “Love Suddenly” is 93 minutes long but feels much longer because the semi-torture of watching this dreck can’t end soon enough.

“Love Suddenly” is just scene after scene of idiocy, with none of it very comical at all. Jerome gets kidnapped by some of Boss Dai’s thugs. Chung plays a prank on Jenny/Zoe by setting her up to be caught on camera reacting to catching him in bed with another woman, who is in on the “joke.” Chung and Jenny/Zoe have an important videoconference meeting with a potential business sponsor (played by Benny Lau), but roommate Kong suddenly appears in the background, visibly wearing a strap-on sex device, which is one of Shirley’s “research” toys.

Sometimes, a mindless movie can be watchable if the cast members have the talent to make the scenes interesting. Unfortunately, the acting in “Love Suddenly” is not good at all, making the movie extra-painful to watch. Ladies’ man Ho and sexually adventurous nurse Tin Tin are the least annoying would-be couple, but these two characters have the least screen time out of the eight main characters. Ultimately, all of the characters in “Love Suddenly” (just like the entire movie) have all the substance of disposable and used candy wrappers on Valentine’s Day.

Just Distribution Company Ltd. released “Love Suddenly” in select U.S. cinemas on December 2, 2022. The movie was released in China on November 17, 2022.

Review: ‘Raging Fire,’ starring Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse

September 1, 2021

by Carla Hay

Donnie Yen in “Raging Fire” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“Raging Fire”

Directed by Benny Chan

Cantonese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hong Kong, the action flick “Raging Fire” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the middle-class, wealthy and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: An upstanding cop battles against a former protégé, who leads a gang that works for a corrupt and wealthy businessman. 

Culture Audience: “Raging Fire” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Donnie Yen, the late filmmaker Benny Chan and Chinese action flicks that have predictable plots.

Nicholas Tse in “Raging Fire” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“Raging Fire” delivers everything you might expect of a formulaic action flick, which means that it delivers nothing surprising or innovative at all. This is strictly a movie for people who just want to see a lot of choreographed violence and don’t care much about having an intriguing story where viewers are challenged to solve mysteries along with the main characters. And that’s a disappointment, considering the protagonist is a police officer who’s been given the task of finding and capturing an elusive, murderous gang and the corrupt businessman who’s hired these thugs.

“Raging Fire” is the last movie directed by Benny Chan, who died of nasopharyngeal cancer in 2020, at the age of 58. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s certainly not his best. And at 126 minutes, “Raging Fire” is a little too long, considering there’s not much of a plot and the movie has a little too much repetition of similar scenarios. It’s the same old story that dozens of other movies have already had: an ethical cop leader leads a team to take down a group of criminals. And there’s a wealthy person who wants to take over the world—or at least dominate a certain part of the world and get richer by having other people do the dirty work. Yawn.

In “Raging Fire,” which takes place in Hong Kong, the cop in charge is Cheung Sung-bong (played by Donnie Yen), also known as Bong, who works for Hong Kong’s Regional Crime Unit. Bong has a reputation as a fearless leader who can get the job done well. He has an excellent track record of catching major criminals. And therefore, you know exactly how this movie is going to end before it even starts.

Yau Kong-ngo (played by Nicholas Tse), also known as Ngo, is Bong’s former protégé who has gone rogue and formed a gang of criminals. In the beginning of the “Raging Fire,” Bong and his team have raided a warehouse lair of drug dealers. However, Ngo becomes a masked interloper who creates chaos in this raid when he becomes a sniper who kills off some of the people in the building.

Ngo is ruthless and insists on unwavering loyalty from everyone in his gang, which consists primarily of other former cops. Coke Ho (played by Ken Law) and Wong (played by Brian Siswojo) are like the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of Ngo’s gang because these two are very close to each other and practically inseparable. There’s also Chiu (played by Henry Mak), who is self-conscious about the burn scar on the right side of his face and is often teased about his scar by other people. Other members of the gang are Mok Yik-chuen (played by Yu Kang) and Chu Yuk-ming (played by German Cheung).

People on Bong’s team include Yuen Ka-po, also known as Beau (played by Patrick Tam), who is Bong’s superior officer. Bong’s Regional Crime Unit subordinates are Chow Chi-chun (played by Deep Ng), token female Turbo Lui (played by Jeana Ho), Kwan Chung-him (played by Bruce Tong) and Cho Ning (played by Angus Yeung). These cops do not have distinct personalities and are just there to literally be backup characters in fight scenes.

A rich bank mogul named Fok Siu-tong (played by Kwok Fung), who owns HK Fortune Banking, is financing Ngo’s gang and is calling the shots in whatever crimes they commit. “Raging Fire” has double crosses, a crystal meth drug bust worth about $48 million, a past kidnapping, a criminal trial and a hostage situation crammed in between the expected fights with fists, guns, knives and bombs.

As is usually the case in action flicks like “Raging Fire,” it’s all about the men, since women are usually reduced to subservient roles. Bong has a pregnant wife named Anna Lam (played by Qin Lan), who’s not much more than the stereotypical “worried wife at home” of the movie’s action hero. Chiu has a mean-spirited girlfriend named Bonnie (played by Leung Ying Ting Rachel), who isn’t in the movie long for the most predictable reason in a movie that doesn’t value women very much.

The fight scenes in “Raging Fire” certainly have a lot of energy but not much imagination. The hostage scene is beyond ridiculous. And as for the movie’s dialogue and acting, let’s just say that this movie is far from award-worthy. “Raging Fire” could be just silly fun for viewers. But considering that these action stars and filmmakers have done much better movies, “Raging Fire” is unfortunately a misfire that will be most-remembered as director Chan’s last film.

Well Go USA released “Raging Fire” in select U.S. cinemas on August 13, 2021. The streaming service Hi-YAH! will premiere the movie on October 22, 2021. The movie’s release date on digital and Blu-ray is on November 23, 2021.

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