Its not that I disliked this film, its just
that ultimately I found it somewhat empty and dissatisfying. I certainly
appreciate seeing HK films go off into interesting directions and tackle
different sorts of subjects and this Milkyway production certainly does
that. In fact, Milkyway has done that all this year by forsaking the edgy
suspense films of their past to make a social drama (Spacked Out), a screwball
comedy (Needing You) and this attempt at black social satire. I certainly
missed their former types of films but a company or an artist cant keep
mining the same territory forever and needs to reinvigorate themselves
from time to time. I almost feel guilty for not enjoying this film more.
The film seems to be trying to mix the biting
satire of Lindsay Anderson, the Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmares of Terry
Gilliam and the comradeship amidst insanity of Mash. And parts of it are
wonderful very funny and clever but black comedy must be the most difficult
type of humor to sustain for an entire film and here it starts to lose
its edge and bite much too soon. The first twenty minutes of the film is
terrific social satire but then it begins wandering off into other misguided
directions its gets soft and the main characters are just not interesting
enough to make you care at all about them. When the most enjoyable characters
in a film are in the supporting cast, you know there is something missing
in the script. The comic team of Lam Suet and Hui Sui-Hung are easily the
best part of the film (building on their smaller teaming in Needing You).
The film appears to be an attack on the medical
care received in Hong Kong and takes place in Ho Kau Kei Hospital (though
the hospital itself is apparently a symbol for HK) where the patients are
the last thing the staff seem concerned about. The opening scene shows
concerned hospital staff rushing about saving patients only for the camera
to pull back to reveal that we have been watching a TV show and in this
hospital no one is rushing about unless it is quitting time. As Lam Suet
mutters to himself No hospital is like that. Ridiculous. Ruling over
this inept madness is a nameless unseen bureaucracy that never leaves
their darkened offices but constantly announces measures over the loud
speakers regarding cost efficiencies such as the limit on trying to resuscitate
patients is twice. When the staff approaches them on tiptoe the musical
cue cleverly becomes the mouse like bit of the Nutcracker Suite (I think).
Directors Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai utilize the
camera movement wonderfully to capture this world gone mad capturing
the mass exodus at leaving time like a choreographed dance number or zooming
in to see the expressions of boredom on the faces of the doctors or pulling
back to show the total inactivity taking place. Even the cleaning lady
refuses to clean more than one urinal so everyone has to use the same
Cecila Cheung is the only idealistic doctor
still on the staff and she is able to recruit Jordan Chan bedecked
initially in a horrific wig and a Volvo into the cause of fighting the
forces of darkness and making the hospital something to be proud of. They
then bring back former doctor Ekin Cheng (now a car mechanic who has
set up his patients in an emergency ward type situation) and the three
go at it. Backing them is the philanthropist who the hospital is named
after (played by veteran Lau Kau) and who after being struck by lightning
was badly mistreated by the staff.
This scene and another are played out beautifully.
Lau Kau shows up at the hospital and no one wants to take care of him
it is near quitting time and bad luck like being hit by lightning must
be deserved so despite his protestations that he has done only good
deeds he is passed from department to department until he ends up in
the bathroom but the cleaning lady kicks him into the elevator where
he ends up at the morgue. Then the staff realizes who he is and there is
a mad rugby like scramble to reach him first.
Another brilliant bit has a patient threatening
to jump off the roof because of the poor treatment he has received and
the doctors rush off like mad. Initially you assume they are going off
to save the patient but they are in fact rushing off to move their cars
before he lands on one!
Scenes like this are great fun but they all
take place in the first third of the film it then meanders off to the
love triangle between the three stars but none of it holds any interest
and the comedy starts becoming repititous. None of these characters are
particularly interesting nothing about them feels real. I have seen a
few comments praising Ekins performance but I found it contrived and
heavy I much preferred his performance in Tokyo Raiders to the one here.
Jordan simply looks put out through much of the film and Cecilia just
didnt have much to work with and did anyone find the recurring character
of the beggar in the least bit funny?
My rating for this film: 6.0 for a great
beginning and a so-so finish.
Distributed by Mei Ah
The transfer looked surprisingly mediocre -
dark and dull much of the time - I wish Milkyway would stop using Mei Ah
for many of their films - they keep doing a pretty shoddy job on their
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks - Dolby
The subtitles are Chinese or English or none.
There is no trailer for this film - but there
is a preview for A War Named Desire and Love Paradox.