Marooned


With few exceptions, Hong Kong film has never really taken well to the genre of noir. Even though noir is considered a quintessential American product, it still surprises me that Hong Kong doesn’t do it better because a number of the elements of noir seem to be in many HK films. Hollywood effectively used this genre to explore the dirty underbelly of society during the 1940’s and 1950’s, showing the dark side of the American psyche that was often ignored in the Technicolor glitz that Hollywood specialized in. Though easier to feel than define, noir displays an uneasy, edgy mood and contains betrayals, crime, femme fatales, loss of innocence, a protagonist caught up in a web of circumstances and corrosive endings. Certainly Hong Kong film makes great use of some of these – crime, betrayals and tragic endings – but what it rarely gets right is the mood. Noir has to be focused, every scene weighed down by shadows and a sense of fatalism. As we know, Hong Kong film doesn’t like to be genre specific, but instead prefers bouncing back and forth between different genres in the same film like an alien shapeshifter.

I mention all this because it initially appears that Marooned is aiming at noir – even to the point of using one of noir’s most characteristic devices – the internal narrative of the main protagonist. It also brings in the elements of crime, loss of innocence and a web of circumstances, but in the end the film utterly sells out noir to be a soft and unimaginative romance. The noir aspects of the film are only a convenient shell for the listless romance within. This perhaps should come as no surprise since Jingle Ma, who seems to have a weakness for bright slick cinematography and gooey love stories, produced the film.

Andy Hui and Gigi Leung
Cops Andy Hui and Edmond Leung bust an illegal gambling operation on the island of Macao. One of the bad guys jumps out the window with the gambling proceeds and Hui catches him only to discover that it is his cousin, Sonny (Woody Chan). Sonny begs Hui not to confiscate the money because the big boss, Kwuen, will kill Sonny for losing it. Knowing it is the wrong thing to do, Hui arrests Sonny but takes the money back to his apartment. He gets a call from Boss Kwuen instructing him to deposit the money into a bank account. Hui is busy the next day and so asks his girlfriend, Gigi Leung, to deposit the $3 million dollars for him. My mental siren goes off at this entire plot device. What crook would deposit $3 million traceable dollars into his bank account and what cop would agree to do so when the transaction could easily be tracked back to him. I have seen enough crime films to know that this would be considered the height of stupidity on both parties. Still, it has to be overlooked and accepted to continue with the film.
While Gigi is depositing the money, the bank is robbed and her money whisked away before an official record was made. The triad boss calls Andy and gives him seven days to either find the robbers or return the money. His other option would be death. At the same time, the cops are investigating the bank robbery and stumble onto the fact that Hui’s girlfriend was depositing $3 million and so begin investigating him. His boss, Ma Tak Chung, suspends him and with time running out Hui is feeling squeezed by all sides.
So there you have the basics for a film noir, but instead the film takes on no narrative tension and slowly meanders about and often comes to a dead halt at times to twiddle about with the romance between Andy and Gigi. Think The Longest Nite lite being straddled with Feeling 100%, but with neither plot being particularly engrossing and the combination being an unwieldy mix. At one point when Andy has two days to produce or die, he decides to have a candlelight dinner and watch fireworks with Gigi and you just want to slap him and tell him to look for the robbers instead. Hui is badly cast in this role  – just not enough grit (which can be said for the entire film) while Gigi is no more distinguished here. After her terrific turn in A War Named Desire, I was hoping for more of the same tough attitude but except for a few moments of flash she sinks back into her previous “good girl next door” characterizations and even pouts on a few occasions when she doesn’t get her way. There was so much opportunity to do more with her character, but it is squandered. So a promising beginning and some potential evaporate under the saccharine gaze of Jingle Ma into a glossy production (there are some lovely shots of Macao) but a not very involving film.
Andy Hui, Samuel Leung, Edmond Leung and Ma Tak Chung

My rating for this film: 5.5



DVD Information:

Distributed by Universe

The transfer is excellent - very sharp and colorful and bright.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks

8 Chapters

The subtitles are Chinese or English.

There is a trailer for this film - and also one for Summer Holiday.

Star Files - Andy Hui and Gigi Leung.