SOU (aka MOB SISTER) (2005-HK)
review by Neo
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A superior Jiang Hu...
A year ago, Wong Po Ching directed Jiang Hu, a movie that was panned and criticized by critics worldwide as being totally over-hyped and with no substance what so ever, but against the odds Neo liked the movie. For a director his age, Jiang Hu was certainly a movie made beyond his years, while it didn’t reach cinematic heights, it was a more than credible performance for a debutant director in his 20s. It has style, and the sense of coolness and along with brilliant production values making it an interesting watch. With Ah Sou, his second feature as a director, Wong has certainly improved and learned from his flaws. Despite ongoing criticism from critics – due to it’s over use of slow motion camera works in Jiang Hu. Wong stands firmly to his style and employed to full emotional impact and really didn’t disappoint Neo – as I praised the coolness of slow motion triad entrance last year. This is a work that Stephen Fung could only be dreaming of directing. The best young director is not Fung, but Wong. One that I believe have the potential of one day surpassing the heights of Johnny To, but for mean time, his films are experimental, but his maturing as a director is more than evident as Ah Soh is fast becoming one of the best works of 2005 HK cinema and perhaps the most emotionally resonating movie since Love Battlefield.
The movie goes like this: In the macho triad world where heroes are molded from blood, brawn and brains, what place is there for a defenseless girl? The only exception to the rule is if you earn your respect as "Ah Sou" - the big boss' wife.
Ah Sou is not without faults, as plot holes are everywhere, however, the problem is not this and it really isn’t a problem when the movie is able to end with a bang. The emotional impact felt by Neo is one that actually surprised me in a manner that nearly evoked a teary impact in my eyes. While knowing it is very much manipulative and the sound track played a crucial role, nonetheless, credits must be given to Wong as he is able to cheat the audience’s heart, despite being so damn obviously manipulative. Don’t get me wrong, because I actually liked this movie, not plainly because of the ending, but ultimately the interesting premises of the movie. Sure, the matters and triad drama are by no means original, this movie is Wong’s signature theme – can a triad truly retire? What will happen if he does? Why to people stay in power? Clearly, the answer is bloody obvious as since when did a triad leader has a good karma?
The performance of Annie Liu is one of an excellent debut, but calling her the next Brigitte Lin would be an overstatement. She has the innocence and crying ability of Cecilia Cheung, but her acting is raw and yet to be controlled, which in a way actually made her performance all the more natural rather than acting. With a sweet looking face and possesses that unique on screen presence, Liu is up for much bigger things ahead and much like Karena Lam will become one the new generation screen goddess. Karena Lam once again put in a faultless display, as she portrayed her character in a total ruthless manner, yet with a sense of redemption factor within her that make her character all the more interesting, if it was further developed – which was not to be. Call me a bias fan of Karena, but few can match her distorted facial expressions at the very beginning of the flick.
To the male performances, the movie takes no risks on using un-seasoned actors, but storming the screen with the likes of Eric Tsang (the more charismatic dwarf in the East), Simon Yam, the irresistibly versatile Anthony Wong and the ever-improving character actor – Alex Fong. While none of the male actors break any new grounds, they are extremely competent in their respective roles without shining out, except Anthony Wong. He gave life to a paper thin character and his ingenious facial expressions are un-doubly a class of his own and his final redemption adds to the layers of full on emotional impact within the audience’s heart.
With all said, this is a Wong Po Ching’s movie, with his signature slow motion shots that almost perfected the finale, and his theme of the fate of triad members quitting or retiring made Jiang Hu an interesting failure (in a good way), and perfecting Ah Sou into a much more mature insight into the world of directing. As with Jiang Hu, the actors gave life to the movie, but what made this a superior piece to its predecessor is the director’s ability to make his presence felt and the shocking yet cliché finale is able to connect with the audience with the best possible way – emotions. What is considered as a good movie? Personally, Neo feels that a truly successful movie is one that is able to connect with the audience’s heart and whether it is manipulative or not is not a main concern. Jiang Hu didn’t connect with audience and the result is lacking in feelings, Wong improved and learned and the result is a far superior work – Ah Sou. A director of the future and a director that directs beyond his years, Wong will make a name for himself in years to come, but for the mean time, keep with your style and beliefs and Neo just can’t wait for your next attempt…
I rate it 9.5/10
on this movie on HK Neo Reviews Forum
Genre: Triad Drama
Director: Wong Ching Po
Cast: Karena Lam Ka-Yan, Annie Liu (Lau Sum-Yau), Alex Fong Chung-Shun, Liu Ye, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Simon Yam Tat-Wah, Liu Kai-Chi, Yuen Wah
Reviewed by Andrew (Neo), August 2005