Reviewed by YTSL
Tsui Hark has been involved in the making of
so many, often sterling quality, movies that it's somewhat understandable
that some of them get mentioned less than others. Still, it is rather
notable that this 1996 Chinese New Year film that was directed by the individual
who also has bequeathed to us such as "Shanghai Blues", "Peking Opera Blues",
the "Once Upon a Time in China"s and the "Swordsman" trilogy is one of
those which seems to have been deliberately (or not) swept under the metaphorical
rug. This particularly since it was the last Hong Kong production
the talented auteur worked on before he went off to try his luck in Hollywood
(unfortunately, for him, without much success).
On the surface, this is one Film Workshop and
Cinema City effort that looked to offer so much, especially in terms of
novelty. As David Bordwell suggested in his "Planet Hong Kong" book:
"Popular filmmaking constantly remakes its star from project to project...Give
your star a new hairstyle or wardrobe or role, shoot some publicity photos,
and your audience may get curious....Part of the pleasure of a new film
lies in the new look it assigns a favorite actor" (2000:158). Imagine
the significant amount of interest TRI-STAR surely stirred up by having:
Leslie Cheung appear as a do-good as well as handsome Catholic priest whose
psychology-obsessed cousin (a libidinous-acting Catherine Hung is nearly
unrecognizable here from "Wing Chun"'s Charmy) is trying to sexually tempt;
Anita Yuen act as a debt-ridden club-girl who first encounters Leslie's
character in a confessional; and Lau Ching Wan play a not particularly
bright detective who is generally unkempt and possesses the kind of beard
that seems to make him resemble Yu Rong Guang's "Iron Monkey" hero in his
government official disguise!
IMHO, a very cute and angelic acting- and -looking
Leslie Cheung outshines everyone else in a cast that also includes:
Sunny Chan (as Lau Ching Wan's ratty character's equally bumbling -- but
much better outfitted -- partner); Shing Fui On (as a peroxide-haired priest);
Raymond Wong (as a police superintendent whose role is largely to provide
extra laughs in this film); Moses Chan (as the irresponsible boyfriend
of Anita Yuen's too-apt-to-be inconsistent character); and Xiong Xin Xin
(who also was TRI-STAR's action director). Unfortunately, all of
the actors and actresses are let down by the movie's unfocused script and
equally disjointed editing (Tsui Hark seemed unable to decisively decide
whether this work was supposed to primarily be a romance, comedy or drama
which also included police and triad action. Also, there really are
portions of the film that got me wondering whether whole connecting sections
had been accidentally excluded from being a part of the final product).
Too many segments and plot lines, which started
off promisingly just, ended up petering out or abruptly ceased to be considered
important to pursue in a not too logical or satisfactory fashion.
Quite a few of TRI-STAR's visual gags (including one which puts Leslie
Cheung in an Elvis outfit and another which has Anita Yuen and her prostitute
friends having vampire-like reaction to rays of morning sunlight) and other
jokes seemed to have been placed where there were just to get instant --
but ultimately pointless -- laughs. Certain of its characters' quirks
(e.g., Lau Ching Wan's character's tendency to take off his shoes to scratch
his itchy feet) never get explained.
Those who would be content to get a bit of humor
and entertainment out of a movie may think that I am overly harsh in my
criticism of an offering that did elicit some amused reactions from me.
It also is true that TRI-STAR can boast of having major star power and
a rather well filmed car chase scene. However, the fact remains that
this (re)viewer expected more and better from the man who remains my favorite
director; not least when he could call upon such stellar talents as Leslie
Cheung and Anita Yuen (who were the stars of his much better "The Chinese
Feast") along with Lau Ching Wan (someone who really ought to have merited
a meatier role than the one he had in this production .
My rating for the film: 6.
Distributed by Fitto Mobile Laser Distribution
The transfer is pretty bad - muddy, a
lack of sharpness and muted colors - truly mediocre.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
The subtitles are burnt on Chinese and English
There is no menu - which of course means no
extras and no chapters