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.
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.
My rating for this film: 5.5
Distributed by Universe
The transfer is excellent - very sharp and
colorful and bright.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
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.