With or Without You/No More Love No More Death

This is one of those strange instances when the sequel (though in this case it is actually a prequel !) is much better than the first film. In fact, I can’t understand why they would have bothered making a prequel to WorWY because it was just awful. Apparently though it was a big hit in HK for reasons that I can’t figure out. Fortunately, I decided to watch NMLNMD first. Anyone follow that ?.

NMLNMD does not live up to it’s potential, but the plot was quite interesting. A man who  pretends to be his father brings up Jacky Cheung up to be a totally ruthless & efficient killer. The father starts off by forcing young Jacky to pour boiling water over rats and slowly he graduates to killing people. By manhood Prince( Jacky) is the most renown killer in HK (and in HK that is quite an accomplishment !) .

Unknown to Prince though is the fact that as a young child he was kidnapped from his real father and his false father has a long term plot to gain revenge on the real father by having his son kill him. Carina Lau is Princess’s plaything  (given to him by his false father on his birthday - better than a new tie !) - and is equally as efficient at killing as keeping Prince a very happy man. Onto  this scene comes Rosamund Kwan who Prince falls in love with and for some mysterious reason this feeling is returned. Her favorite line is "yes you kill people, but sometimes words can be even more painful". Ya, OK - I think I would choose nasty words being thrown my way over a bullet in the gut.

It is not a bad story though with some decent action & an ending that is not completely expected. Jacky Cheung's acting really hurts this film as his main expression seems to be a maniacal grin. Quite liked Carina though - my kind of girl!

Now having seen NMLNMD first, I fully expected WorWY to follow up on this story, and it does but only to a certain extent. First of all, though Prince in NMLNMD was a stone cold killer he did create some sympathy from the viewer and he was at least a good guy towards Lau and Kwan. In WorWY he is a complete sleaze gone totally over the edge in his sadistic glee. Strangely though, the movie focuses almost entirely on a romance that blooms between Kwan and a cop, Leon Lai. Jacky just shows up from time to time to laugh crazily and then disappear again for another year. Weird and bad. Why did the prequel focus on Prince as he is such a secondary and weak character in the first movie? . And why was this movie such a hit?. Most of the movie is about Leon trying to find his lost gun and drags on interminably.

My rating for these films: WorWY - 4.0/NMLNMD - 7.0

Reviewed by YTSL

In his review of this 1992 film, Brian stated that he could not understand why it had been a big hit in Hong Kong.  On his now defunct Hong Kong Cinema web site, Joseph Fierro also wrote something about it having been extremely popular among that territory’s residents.  While I can see how it is that an offering that has two Cantopop Sky Kings playing rivals for the heart of the same woman could attract quite a few females into the then British Crown Colony’s cinemas, here’s pointing out though that:  According to the box office information that appears on the Movieworld web site, this work only came in at #39 out of the 139 local productions released the year in which Stephen Chow was the box office king.

Approached with appropriately low(ered) expectations, WITH OR WITHOUT YOU comes across for the most part as an acceptable star vehicle for Leon Lai (prior to his making a strong case for his having acting ability by way of his “Fallen Angels”, “Comrades, Almost a Love Story” and “A Hero Never Dies” performances).  At the very least, he looks and acts cute and charming enough in this movie -- which I must admit to wanting to view primarily because he stars in it... -- to come across as an attractive choice of boyfriend for many women, let alone one who works in a nightclub like Rosamund Kwan’s Joey character.  Although a case could be made for this baby-faced singer-actor not being particularly suited to portray a cop, it surely could stand to reason that his Wong character would be precisely the type of innocent who would take up the suggestion of the club girl he loved to “Let’s keep drinking. Let’s vomit all the sadness” and discover a few hours later that he had lost his gun at some point during that drunken night!

In contrast to admirers of the King of Fan Support, I’d imagine that fans of Jacky Cheung will be less satisfied with their idol’s WITH OR WITHOUT YOU outing.  For one thing, his is but a supporting role (Though it initially looks like the character of the man who is on record as saying that he no longer wants to be a Sky King will have a large part to play in proceedings, he is seen leaving Hong Kong a few minutes into the film and doesn’t reappear until the last twenty minutes or so of the movie).  For another, the individual referred to as Prince who the (former) King of Singing essays is a maniacal hitman with few -- if any -- qualms about killing as well as hurting other people.  Consequently, even though he is heard proclaiming that “Everyone makes mistake” and that “I’m also human”, his is by far the least sympathetic and inhumane of this offering’s featured characters (And considering that these include a loathsomely sadistic scumbag -- who wants women to eat vomit and drink urine -- portrayed by John Ching, this is saying quite a lot).

Perhaps it was primarily to appease Jacky Cheung’s fans that the prequel to WITH OR WITHOUT YOU was later made (and focuses on his character); this especially so when, if I am not mistaken, Leon Lai gets to sing both the popular main and end songs of this film whereas the talent who is widely acknowledged to be the better singer wasn’t given a single chance to croon even a note in this work.  The relationship between Prince and Joey also begged to be explained and given an understandable context since it involves an otherwise insensitive man’s caring so much for a woman to not only be wildly jealous with regards to other males who seek to be her Prince Charming but also -- gasp! ;) -- remember her birthday plus think nothing of getting hit by a car on his way to get her a glass of water to drink!!

Getting back to WITH OR WITHOUT YOU:  I felt it worked best as a low-key and leisurely paced romance involving Wong and Joey.  However, the film’s makers obviously felt a need to pad and spice up this 86 minute length work with such as a sub-plot involving the losing and consequent search for a small .38 caliber bullet firing pistol that people in the know were apt to scoff at as being unable to kill a fly.  While that didn’t negatively affect the movie, I do consider that its up-until-then fairly good mood got spoiled by a rather lengthy climactic action sequence that was as full of logic holes -- not least in terms of the police being afraid to shoot at a man who had dynamite wired to his body but the movie’s admittedly not exceptionally bright spark of a hero seeming to think that it was completely okay to attempt to throw that potential human bomb into a fire -- as some viewers might argue that the earlier portions of the work was bereft of genuine tension and excitement.

My rating for this film:  5.5