Eight Taels of Gold

This film starring Sammo Hung & Sylvia Chang is one of the best non-action films that I have seen come out of HK. Yes - that's right - Sammo in a total non action film and he is terrific. This by turns comic & romantic script is top notch and depicts a world that I have not seen in many HK films.  It shows contemporary village life in China and does it with respect and love but also with a few digs at the ruling Communist Party.

You know you are in for a good movie when it opens with Sammo as a taxi driver in New York City where he is showing as much skill at throwing epithets around as he usually does punches. After 16 years of living in the USA,  Sammo is preparing to finally go back home to visit his family. In all that time he has written only once after he had left China without a word to anyone. As Sammo explains to Sylvia later "China was in turmoil. One day a hero, the next a traitor - I was just a teenager drifting with the crowd. If I hadn't left I would have drifted to my death" In preparation to return he adorns himself with eight taels of gold (some borrowed) to show his family that he is successful.

There are many comic moments such as on the plane ride over, the plane hits terrible turbulence and the flight attendants start handing out paper for people to write down their wills. Sammo tapes his and I loved the line "Bury me in China please because my English is a 3-legged animal and I don't want to ride it in the afterworld" (who would have thought that he would ride it to Hollywood !). Or when paying a taxi driver in China with a Statue of Liberty souvenir saying that it is from America, the driver turns it over and of course it says "Made in China" - Sammo quickly explains that it says "Long Live Liberty" and the driver gratefully accepts it.

The home that Sammo returns to is in the rural mainland and some of the landscapes and village scenes are just wonderful. On his journey to his ancestral home (he finds his family has left their current home because his sister is pregnant and has already had the mandated one child - but its a girl - so they leave to their old home so that she can have another) he comes across Sylvia Chang , a childhood acquaintance, who is going to the same town to marry an American-Chinese who will soon be coming for her. The unspoken love that develops between the two of them is wonderfully bittersweet. There are in fact many warm wonderful moments between Sammo and his family and if the ending doesn't bring a few tears to your eyes I can't imagine what could.

My rating for this film: 8.0