FROM HK ISLAND (2004-HK)
review by Neo
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funny yet quite meaningful like movie!
Simon Lui is the bald guy the funny guy and the annoying guy but when he goes to directing, he is not a bad one at all, in fact, what I can call as a fairly adequate director, well at the least it is the case for his latest movie - Escape from Hong Kong Island. Yes the premise of the movie is quite simple as it is as the title suggests, but the meaningfulness and cliché-ness does not make this movie sink but rather the opposite direction, mainly due to its realism despite constant exaggeration. Yes it is contradicting but I recently have something or like movies that say something about the randomness of life and this movie is one perfect fit. No I don't love this movie, but nor do I hate it as it ends up actually pretty likable and also telling a tried but true moral behind the simple story.
The simple straight from the title story goes like this from the official summary: Raymond is a cocky senior manager in a trading company. One morning, he heads to work just like every other day, a guy approached him to ask for money and Raymond brushed him off. A chain of bad luck starts to occur. Raymond's boss fires him and Raymond quickly secures a spot with Bey, Raymond's pal who works in a competitor's company. The only condition is that Raymond will have to cross the harbour to sign the contract by 5pm that day. Crossing the harbour may be an easy task, but not so when you are mugged! Without money or identification card, Raymond spends the next hours desperately seeking for help or money, but only receive cold-shoulder. When every means has been tried, he even jumps in the water to swim across the harbour. This is the day that Raymond learns his important lesson in life... yeah to the think of it, it does sound like some other movie I have seen before that I can never remember, but what make this movie work is one vital thing, is Jordan Chan's acting.
This movie is without doubt about change and lucky the director has been in the industry long enough to know that you can't just change a person suddenly and lucky he knows what he is doing. In a way, it works and in a way it seemed quite predictable. Sure, the journey is simple on surface as all he needs to do is cross the sea from HK to Kowloon, but Lui smartly interweaves Jordan past cruel life and his present ambivalent mood to its fullest. Scenes are exaggerated and coincidental, but yet despite its funny cliché, unlike most other nonsense HK movie, this one does provide a somewhat meaningful message to all those greedy rich bastard in HK. That's not to say all rich bastard are like that, as this is a movie, and life isn't like that. I know plenty of rich bastard, wait rich people who are very down to earth and willing to help (not that I am rich, but I am definitely someone with a heart of gold) - I am very humble as you can see! But seriously HK, from what I hear and from first hand experience, all those business people are very much money minded and in the processes losing my valuable friends. This lead to another point is that the value of friendship is not just instant, but stay true to the saying - a friend in need is a friend indeed and from the very moment I knew this proverb many years ago, I still stand by it to the very day, despite several betrayals, as the pros by far out weigh the cons.
As to the performances as I say before, it is Jordan Chan really that lifts the movie above the average ones and in what I say a performance that is not gonna win any awards, but one that remains realistic and one that the audience can really relates to. Sure his range is questionable, but his acting has continued to improve and I am sure, if given the right material, Chan will soar up again as he is one of the better actors among the new/not so new generation. His scenes of anger and frustration while not memorable, but works well to carry the movie along the brisk 84 minutes. However, one actor to mention once again is the ever improving Chapman To, while he can be very annoying his recent attempts to a more subtle and restrain comedy is turning out to be more effective than harm. His performance here is funny and yet not annoyingly funny and making his character extremely likable. He is definitely one star that has risen from being B-graded movies to near- A graded ones. So Chapman, while I am not yet a fan of yours, you are without doubt one of the better supporting actors around. So looking forward to another good one next time. While Coco Chiang is hot, she does nothing but just appear quite hot and that's all and that's all I ask from anyway.
However despite all these praises I do have plenty of criticisms on this movie, firstly the change at the end is too predictable and not slow enough, rather than showing just pictures of change, while it is slightly original, it seems very much overused technique to save film. If only they kind of show how he and his brother get back together, the movie may be slightly more believable and meaningful. However, as I have only written about half a paragraph of criticism this is a movie that pros outlasted the cons. And on that very fact, I actually liked the movie and clocking at 84 minutes it is not a waste of time and in fact without any sort of doubt one of the more meaningful HK movies this year and yes it is funny, yes it is exaggerated, yes it is from the wacky Simon Lui and yes there is Chapman To, but this movie is damn realistic and somewhat meaningful saying on the value of friendship and demise of greed. Oh yes I know that you probably already know that.
I rate it 8/10
on this movie on HK Neo Reviews Forum
Product Title : Escape from HK Island
Artist Name(s) : |Jordan Chan| Chapman To | Coco Chiang
Language : Cantonese| Mandarin
Duration : 84 minutes
Reviewed by Andrew (Neo) - October 2004