It's Now or Never
Ooh, watch out. The Teddy Girls are out on the
streets tonight - dressed in blood red jackets and boots that match the
slash of lipstick across their snarling mouths. Looking like sleek polished
sports cars primed to go, it is only a matter of time before trouble calls
out their names and it does in the sexy shape of Chewing-gum. Down at the
local dance hall the band is ripping out the latest jangly surf tune and
the boys are twisting as close as they can to any girl that will let them.
It's HK in the early 60's and cokes are selling for 30 cents. Chewing-gum
(Pauline Chan) is whispering sweet intimate come-ons into the ear of Little
Bun’s (Cynthia Khan) boyfriend but this little tete-a-tete is noticed by
two of the teddy girls and they speed away to tell Little Bun the bad news.
Within a few minutes, the gang headed by Cheung Man comes strutting through
the doors – pull out their clubs and all hell breaks loose – all wonderfully
punctuated by the guitar driven music. It’s ten minutes of divine rock
and roll cinema.
I love these retro films – and there is something
about a tough Teddy girl gang film taking place in the HK of the 60’s that
just struck me as very cool. As soon as the camera first slowly pans up
past Cheung Man’s red vinyl boots, past her bare legs and short white skirt,
pauses to take in her stylish jacket and then to her insolently blowing
out cigarette smoke I was hooked. This woman is as hard as rock candy,
but much easier on the eye. Cheung Man just takes over this film with her
scorching looks and her “screw you” attitude.
The cops come in and break up the fight and they
all end up down at the police station where Cheung Man’s younger sister,
Rain Lau, is also being booked for some petty crime. Rain is only a schoolgirl
but she is doing her best to not let it bother her or slow down her criminal
activities like selling pills. Soon dad – Ng Man-Tat – shows up – but it
isn’t a sympathy call – he too is being booked for cheating some woman.
This is their family – not a model family exactly – but a family nevertheless
– and the film revolves for the most part around their fighting and loving
It turns out that he is a third rate Lothario
with a specialty of courting incredibly unattractive women and then bilking
them out of as much money as possible. Pickings are slim these days though
especially with his sex drive going in reverse and his chest full of aphrodisiacs
not helping any more. Some of his ex-paramours are after him and so are
some local triad collectors. Ng Man-Tat has some hilarious scenes in this
film – and one in which he tries to seduce the mother of Cheung’s wealthy
boyfriend with a cherry in his mouth is a classic.
Also being surprisingly funny in this film is
Cynthia Khan. She plays very much against type here as one of the gang
and Cheung’s best friend. She is all bluster and threats – and displays
some lovely kung-fu stances – but when the fighting begins she continually
gets clobbered. I was dying for one true Cynthia moment and we finally
get it when she beats the hell out of her boyfriend (remember him?) who
has forced her into prostitution.
The first forty-five minutes of the film are like
speeding down the highway – the top down – and the wind blowing through
your hair – just a complete blast. The film is splendid tongue in cheek
fun – and sizzlingly stylish – but then it slows down – loses its Teddy
girl focus to become more of a bizarre family drama – and then in the final
fifteen minutes it gets somewhat brutal and starts taking itself seriously.
It is a shame that it goes off track like that because it was feeling extremely
unique for a while – but then settles into becoming a much more typical
HK film towards the end.
The 60’s sets and feel are great, the soundtrack
is pure surf music and Cheung Man is absolutely delicious in this film.
One scene of her whipping off her wig and shaking out her hair in slo-mo
is one of those magical moments in cinema – just poetry. She gets excellent
support from the other actors. Rain Lau is funny and touching as her loud
mouthed little sister. Ng Man-Tat loves his daughters but is not much of
a role model and finally brings down disaster upon them. I wish Cynthia
Khan had been in more comedic roles such as this. She constantly cracked
me up with her threatened “Eagle Claws” stance. And Lawrence Cheng is sympathetic
as the geeky straight arrow cop who takes one look at Cheung Man and falls
My rating for this film: 8.0