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 ever seen.

 Linn, Joey, Blackgirl and Brainless
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.

DVD Information:

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 Shaolin Temple.