East Meets West 東成西就２０１１
2011, colour, 2.35:1, 99 mins
Directed by Jeff Lau (劉鎮偉)
By Derek Elley
Mon, 16 April 2012, 20:25 PM (HKT)
Parodistic, pop-culture romp finds director Jeff Lau on good but not consistent form. Asian events.
Guangdong province, China, the present day. Onetime member of The Wynners pop group, Kenny Bee (Kenny Bee) summons his goth-punk daughter Chung Siu-ming (Karen Mok) from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, where he's been reduced to working as a zombie in a funfair's Haunted House. He tells her his young, shopaholic wife Fong Ga-bo (Crystal Huang), a former schoolmate of Siu-ming, is on the run from super-rich Guangzhou businessman Zhou Chong (Eason Chan), for whom she promised to arrange a reunion concert of The Wynners but whose advance of RMB500,000 (US$80,000) she's already spent. After escaping Zhou Chong's men, Kenny and Siu-ming fly to Guangzhou to track her down in Art Capital, a wannabe entertainers' squat, where they're mistaken for talent managers by aspiring singer Yan Chengyu (Tan Weiwei), a wealthy CEO's runaway daughter. After being told by Zhou Chong that he's holding Ga-ga hostage at his offices, Kenny and Siu-ming race over in a taxi but en route knock down improverished mute chef Deng Daxiong (Ekin Cheng) and his young son Xiaofang (Buzz Chung). In the accident, Deng is revealed to have super-powers in the same way as Kenny and Siu-ming were while escaping from Zhou Chong's men in Shenzhen. Chengyu, after being brought back to her father by his toadying employee Bing (Jaycee Chan), also shows super-powers when her father beats her. It turns out that they, and others, are all human incarnations of the seven Heavenly Dragons who have been fighting a timeless battle against the eighth evil one, Yaksha; only when all eight unite in peace can they return to their job of leading mankind along a righteous path. Meanwhile, Kenny and Siu-ming do a deal with Zhou Chong for Ga-ga's life, arranging a fake reunion concert of The Wynners. Siu-ming, however, has secretly fallen for the ruthless Zhou Chong, who has a secret agenda.
The ideas trip over each other and pile up like a car crash in East Meets West 東成西就２０１１ (2011), another mixture of the fantastical, sentimental and parodistic from the fertile, pop-culture imagination of Jeff LAU 劉鎮偉. A martial arts extravaganza set in present-day Guangzhou, it's partly in the vein of his The Eagle Shooting Heroes 射雕英雄傳之東成西就 (1993), a costume swordplay parody of martial arts novelist Louis CHA 金庸's The Legend of the Condor Heroes (神鵰英雄傳) and in its dialogue also vaguely references another Cha novel, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (天龍八部). It's also another of Lau's madcap ensemble comedies full of retro tributes (here to '70s boy group The Wynners 温拿 and its star Kenny BEE 鍾鎮濤 | 阿Ｂ), plus fleeting cameos by everyone from singing groups du jour to Bee's seven-year-old daughter CHUNG Yee 鍾懿.
For non-Chinese (and especially non-Hong Kong audiences), Lau's films really need running footnotes to explain all the jokes and references — and here even more so than his previous movie, Just Another Pandora's Box 越光寶盒 (2010), which at least parodied a well-known modern classic, Red Cliff 赤壁 (2008). But at their best Lau's movies can also be enjoyed just as madcap comedies — and for at least its first 30 minutes East Meets West is up there with his best. Generously spoofing his own career, Kenny Bee, playing a version of "himself", proves a likeable lead, and Karen MOK 莫文蔚, as his short-fused, goth-punk daughter, an equally fine co-lead. As the characters and lunatic plot unfold during the opening half-hour, Lau's gift for elevating Cantonese ensemble comedy via pan-Chinese pop-culture references rolls along just fine.
After that great start, the rest of the movie isn't quite on the same level of invention, spending too long on a side romance between Mok's grrrl punk and Eason CHAN 陳奕迅's too-young-looking villain, and way too long on a finale in which the main characters are transformed into feuding super-heroes. Some, like Ekin CHENG 鄭伊健's mute chef, aren't properly developed; others, like Mainland actress Crystal HUANG 黃奕's Lady Gaga-like shopaholic, are a waste of good talent. But Lau's ability to switch from pantomime to melodrama at the drop of a hat does produce some touching moments near the end, largely centred on Mok's love-betrayed character.
Production values, while not quite up to those of Pandora's Box, are very smooth, and visual effects fine in a pulpy way. The rich music track, as always in Lau's films, plays a key role, with everything from classical music to highly effective use of the song Happy Together. The four-character phrase, dōng chéng xī jiù, which makes up the film's title (and is also the handle to The Eagle Shooting Heroes' Chinese title) roughly means Everything Is Possible — which pretty much sums up Lau's free-wheeling approach to plot and characters. The English title sounds good but is actually meaningless.
ContactSales: Distribution Workshop, Hong Kong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: Hong Kong/China, 24 Nov 2011.
Presented by Dadi Media (CN), Distribution Workshop (HK), China Film Assist Media (CN), CashFlower Communication (CN), in association with Jiangsu Reward Film Media, Inlook Film Industry, Beijing Rada Joy Entertainment Culture Communication, China Film South Cinema Circuit, Guangzhou Jinyi Media Corporation, Beijing Star Culture Communication, Hangzhou Jiaping Pictures, Beijing New Film Association. Produced by Distribution Workshop (HK). Executive producers: Rachel Liu, Nansun Shi, Geng Ling, Guan Jin. Producers: Julia Chu, Wan Jun.
Script: Kei On [Jeff Lau]. Photography: Wong Bo-man, Lam Wah-chuen. Editing: Marco Mak. Music: Anthony Wong Yiu-ming, Mark Lui, Yang Zhenbang. Music direction: Susie Au. Art direction: Bill Lui. Costume design: Tina Lau. Sound: Cinedigit Sound. Action: Lee Tat-chiu. Visual effects: Cecil Cheng (Centro Digital Pictures). Artistic consultation: Kenny Bee.
Cast: Eason Chan (Zhou Chong/Charles), Karen Mok (Chung Siu-ming/Sammi), Ekin Cheng (Deng Daxiong, the chef), Crystal Huang (Fong Ga-bo/Ga-ga/Scarlet, Siu-ming's stepmother), Kenny Bee (Kenny Bee, Siu-ming's father), William So (Wen Qi, Guangzhou taxi driver), Tan Weiwei (Yan Chengyu/Jade), Stephy Tang (female Yaksha), Jaycee Chan (Bing), Jonathan Lee (Yan Dongze, Chengyu's father), Eman Lam (Hong Kong convenience store employee), Zhong Guoxiong (QQ), Chet Lam (convenience store pest), Back Dorm Boys (Haunted House visitors), Chung Yee (young girl visiting Haunted House), Han Dong (Ekin), Ye Hanming (gangster chasing money), Mini Yang (Mini Yang), Buzz Chung (Deng Xiaofang, Daxiong's son), Reborn (hospital nurses), Van Fan, Jacky Xue, Jaco Zhang (hospital doctors), Tiffany Tang (Qiao, Daxiong's ex-wife), He Meitian (Zhou Chong's secretary), An Hu (Lu, Qiao's cousin), Alex Fong Lik-san (Zhou Chong's assistant), Chopstick Brothers (fraudsters in car accident), Kimi Qiao (Ju, gang leader), Soler (thieves), Izumi Liu (Xiao Su), Shui Mu Nian Hua (reporters), J.A.C. (Japanese policemen), Tomo.com (Japanese fishmonger), Huang Tingcong (manager), Wang Zizi, Tian Long, Liu Ge, Zhu Qi (TV crew), Wan Jun (manager), Ray Ma (backstage supervisor), The Flowers (The Flowers), Alan Tam, Antony Chan, Benette Pang, Danny Yip (The Wynners), Li Na (dancer), ME-Ga (ME-Ga).