Girls in the Hood
Reviewed by YTSL
About two minutes into this 1995 movie that
centers on a category of female juvenile delinquents known as “no wash
girls” or “old mud girls” in Cantonese (because they are homeless and consequently
don’t get to shower or bathe as often as they might like), there occurs
the casual revealing of the first of many pairs of “points” that will get
shown in that which most certainly deserves its Category III rating.
Shortly after this, the first of this expletive ridden offering’s multitude
of often loveless sex scenes is shown taking place on an inflatable mattress
inside of a less than luxurious van. Still, to quote Paul Fonoroff:
“That said, the film is more than just a cheap porno flick” (In his “At
the Movies”, 1998:462). Additionally, here’s giving due warning re
it being one of the most relentlessly downbeat Hong Kong movies that I’ve
Like with “Night Club” -- a Y2K prostitute drama
that stars Ruby Wong and Simon Yam --which he also directed, Law Shun Chuen
seems to have gone for a gritty socio-realist tone and style with that
whose not particularly inspired title is that of GIRLS IN THE HOOD.
Consequently, attractive shots of the Hong Kong skyline at night, that
were accompanied by soothing music, soon gave way to more tawdry sights.
On account of the Hong Kong based Fonoroff having labeled this work as
a docudrama (albeit an exploitative one), it might be assumed that individuals
like the five young women whose lives intersect for a certain period of
time -- by way of their having taken to spending large proportions of days
and also nights in the vicinity of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and the
Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront Promenade -- really do exist. If their lives
bear any resemblance at all to that which is depicted in this Wong Qui
Fei script-written film, they are generally woeful as well as arguably
unnecessarily problem-filled ones indeed.
Joey (who is portrayed by Leung Yuen Man) is someone
who, after being unable to successfully effect a suicide, decides to join
the “Van Group” of self-described “play girls” rather than go home and
face her parents plus others who presumably know of her having been jilted
by a boyfriend. As later events were to show, this was going to be
a rather illogical decision that she would eventually regret and reverse.
For longer than I could understand though, she seemed fairly content to
effectively tag along after: “Brainless” (who Chow Oi Ling played),
an equally young female whose chief reason for having sex was as a rebellious
act of revenge on her detested parents; “Blackgirl” (who is essayed by
Hung Siu Wan), abandoned by her mother at the age of four and the only
employed member of her “gang” by way of her sometimes working in the hairdressing
salon of a gay relative who she has no qualms about insulting; and Linn,
considered to look like Anita Mui -- although I thought she bore more of
a resemblance to Geena Davis! -- and someone who most emphatically did
not want to end up as a Temple Street hawker like her father.
Still, Joey was astute enough to not fall prey
to a punkish pimp named Tai Hou and also spurn the advances of a lesbian/bisexual
woman who trawled public spaces for emotionally plus financially needy
girls who could easily be taken advantage of along with her male associate.
As the audience of GIRLS IN THE HOOD learn by witnessing what happens to
an unhappy Mainlander -- who still had not managed to learn sufficient
amounts of Cantonese along with street wisdom after spending three years
in Hong Kong -- named Hung (portrayed by Ha Hong), neither of those connections
are ones that lead to happiness or satisfaction of any kind. Indeed,
so harmful are they to one’s soul, self-esteem and whatever else that they
entirely negate the fairly positive, even if limited, influence of the
woman addressed as Siu Chea: A middle-aged -- and at times almost
maternal acting -- flower seller whose work space is the same not entirely
base public areas that are frequented by the “no wash girls” and other
less savory characters.
In his HKMDB review of GIRLS IN THE HOOD, STSH
opined that: “The main characters are a strong-minded and assertive
lot, and are watchable if only for being strong characters.” This
may be so, but precisely because they seemed to have quite a bit of control
over their own lives and fates, this (re)viewer really found it hard to
approve of the often uncalled for choices that they made plus was unable
to feel entirely sympathetic when their individual and collective fortunes
took a turn for the worse as a result of some of the unintelligent decisions
that they -- not (just) others -- made. Still, this is not at all
to say that a gang rape and lonely and/or violent deaths are events that
I would want to wish on (almost) anyone, let alone any of this movie’s
five main characters. Perhaps it was precisely because I ended up
caring somewhat for them that I found those tragic acts that occurred to
more than one of them so hard to “witness”, and this Blacky Ko production
to be an effort that was so frustrating, troubling and depressing to view.
My rating for this film: 4.
Distributed by Mei Ah
The transfer is quite ordinary like so many
from this company - but it is generally clean and clear.
Cantonese and Mandarin tracks
Subtitles - burnt on Chinese and English
Chapters - 9
There is a trailer for this film and one for