Happy Bigamist

Perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood for a low-key comedy, but I found myself slogging through this 1987 effort as if in heavy boots in a field of mud. It seemed to go on forever without any particular purpose or reason. Admittedly, it did have the occasional good laugh, but they felt as rare as a cool breeze in my sweltering Brooklyn apartment. The film certainly has a good pedigree and so perhaps I was expecting something with a little more zip and style. Produced by Sammo Hung, directed by Anthony Chan (A Fishy Story) and starring two of my favorite Hong Kong actresses, Anita Mui and Pat Ha, one has to wonder where and why it went wrong – not wrong in a disastrous way – more in a ho-hum way.
There are a couple things clearly wrong with the film though. First and foremost Anita doesn’t pack on the lipstick. Some things go better in red and Anita’s sultry lips would be one of them. When she is in glam mode, there is no one with more pizzazz than Anita and this is usually reflected in the quality of her performance. Think Heroic Trio, Saviour of the Soul, Rouge, Shanghai Shanghai, A Better Tomorrow III and Mr. Canton and Lady Rose – in all of these Anita applies the red lipstick like an Andy Warhol painting – bright and luscious – and all of those performances are scintillating. In fact Anita and her perfectly coiffed lips were often the highlight of the film. Without the lipstick, Anita loses the glamour factor – fades slightly into the background – and loses the charismatic luster that those brightly colored lips bring out in her.
Another thing wrong with the film is Pat Ha doesn’t pack a gun. Ever since I saw this actress blowing away bad guys with delectable detachment in On the Run I have wanted to see her pick up another lethal revolver and strike a pose. Pat Ha simply looks good with a gun in her hand. Sleek and persuasively deadly, she was the epitome of cool under pressure. In his famous statement, Godard said that all you need to make a film is a girl and a gun. This is true, but it has to be the right girl. Some women look great with a gun as an accessory, others do not. Pat Ha looks good with a gun, Maggie Cheung doesn’t. With Maggie the gun always seems like a foreign object in her hands – something to be put down as soon as possible like a sticky cinnamon bun. Jade Leung looks very good with a gun – sexy and sexual – the gun a tightly gripped phallic symbol, Rosamund Kwan doesn’t – her face is too soft and her eyes too dreamy. Of course Carrie Ng looks yummy with a gun and she also has the red lipstick thing going – almost an impossible combination to beat in my book – but Nina Li who could out lipstick anyone just looked too doll like fragile to be gun chic. Another actress that I have always appreciated with a gun in hand is Joyce Godenza – you always believed that she would gladly pull the trigger – but it’s hard to envision Diana Pang Dan looking good with a gun – too much cleavage – who would even notice the gun.
Sometimes you are surprised by how good an actress looks with her finger on the trigger – I never would have thought Gigi Leung would fit the role, but in a War Named Desire Gigi showed some real flash and made the smoking gun barrel look like an after sex cigarette. Now perky Anita Yuen did the gun thing in A Taste of Killing and Romance, but with the foppish hat and the French cuffs she never looked all that deadly, but she sure did look cute. It’s certainly no wonder that fellow assassin Andy Lau who wears some pretty odd attire himself at times falls in love with her. Then there is The Great One – Brigitte Lin. Now Brigitte looks pretty damn good with anything in her hand from a severed head, to sewing needles, to swords to a bouquet of flowers, but she didn’t get to handle a gun in all that many of her films – but this being Hong Kong she certainly had a few opportunities. When she did she was tres magnificent – resolute, grim and beautiful - hell she even looked fabulously chic when her arm was replaced by a gun (a gattling gun to be precise in Pink Force Commando). In Chungking Express she was the perfect mysterious femme fatale – her gun always neatly tucked away at the ready in her beige raincoat. In Boys are Easy her fancy gunplay made Tony Leung Ka-fai quiver in lust. Guns and women can have that effect, but it has to be the right woman.
Back to the film. It actually has rather a cute plot even if it is not exploited as much as it could have been for laughs. Plain Jane Anita gets hooked to Anthony Chan (not the most dynamic of actors), but almost immediately his ex-wife, Pat Ha, shows up and demands to be allowed to stay in their home. The two of them tussle for Anthony’s affections – Pat more to spite Anita than anything – and Anita spends most of the film with a pout large enough to tie a rubber band around. At one point a revered Aunt comes to stay and Anthony and Pat have to pretend to still be married – with Anita taking on the role of the Amah. Finally Anita decides that the only solution is to find Pat a man of her own – and introduces her to Kenny Bee – not a bad catch. Pat is only too pleased, but now Anthony starts getting jealous of Kenny and his ex-wife and begins to act the fool. That is about it. With a little more lipstick and a gun this might have been a classic. As it is though:

My rating for this film: 5.5