Hong Kong Gigolo

Reviewed by YTSL
 

Among the more unusual of Hong Kong movies are those whose primary characters are gigolos and/or prostitutes.  Prior to watching this 1990 film which stars pudgy Alex Man and lean but muscular Mark Cheng along with Simon Yam, this (re)viewer had thought that offerings chronicling the activities of the former were invariably comedies as much as those which focused on the lives of the latter tended to be melodramatic in nature.  Imagine my shock then to encounter my first ever gigolo tragedy in this David Lam production; this especially since its first seven minutes made me think that the offering was going in the direction of a sexy as well as frivolous Category III romp (For the record, it features three sex acts -- including one menage a trois -- plus two male and female pairs of "two points" each).

One sign of HONG KONG GIGOLO being a work which differs in tone from such as the frankly amusing "Gigolo and Whore" 1 and 2 -- and instead having a dramatic orientation more similar to "Girls Without Tomorrow", "Call Girl 92", "Candlelight's Woman" and "Night Club" -- is the fact of its three main male characters having loved ones (be they in the form of a child, mother, sister or girlfriend) as well as clients, colleagues and competition.  Even more tellingly is their trying to hide what their way of making money from those people who care about them and their lives (Something which happens less often than one might think in Hong Kong movies about those -- be they female or male -- who are involved in the sex trade).

Horse (Alex Man plays him as the most pathetic and oily of the three gigolos who all are part of Petrina Fung Bobo's sympathetic Mamasan Maria's "stable"), David (Simon Yam is charming as the "star" gigolo who tells his policewoman sister -- who comes in the form of spunky Meg Lam -- and traditionalist mother that he is an insurance salesman) and Joe (Mark Cheng portrays a gigolo who caters to women who like to play rough sex games) are the men whose lives loosely connect by way of their choice of "profession".  While the two younger men are well able to serve their clients, the older, more experienced but no longer successful man can be said to represent their future...if they manage, or end up having, to stay in the business for as long as him.  As Horse -- who was so nicknamed for his (previously) abundant stamina -- bitterly observes at one point in this downbeat film:  "No gigolo will have a good result".
For much of HONG KONG GIGOLO, the main characters fight hard to try to ensure that bad (personal and professional) fates will not befall them.  Their battles are made more difficult, and their stories complicated though, by their encountering certain not very nice individuals through the course of their work and such.  Seemingly invariably, and definitely adding to the sorry state of affairs is its being the case that innocents get negatively affected by the actions and decisions of these not necessarily bad men.
The not very popular Paul Fonoroff started off his major spoiler-filled -- so do try not to read it! -- review of HONG KONG GIGOLO by opining that:  "This production is so trashy that it is actually fun to watch" ("At the Hong Kong Movies", 1998:116).  I beg to seriously differ on this -- as with so many others of his -- accounts.  Put another way: My sense is that this is not a work that was meant to be enjoyed for the most part (Indeed I have to confess to feeling compelled to fast-forward through some sections of it).  Instead, it is an unexpectedly moralizing piece of work; albeit one with more ample shots of naked bodies than one would think that something with such a pessimistic as well as conservative message would have...But then, that's Hong Kong (movies) for you:  Capable of surprising even when you think it's tiredly exploring an already thoroughly exploited (sub)genre.

My rating for the film:  5.5



DVD Information:

Distributed by Universe

The transfer is extremely mediocre. The print is not sharp, the colors are dull and often off color and many of the interior scenes are murky.

Letterboxed

Subtitles:  Burnt on Chinese , English

8 Chapters

It does not include it's own trailer, but does have ones for First Shot and Gigolo and Whore.

The sub-titles are easy enough to read.

There is a star file for Simon Yam.