26 April 2004 | cjlines
The tricky capsule! Yes, so tricky!
"Gin chap hak mooi gwai" (or "The Proteges of the Black Rose") is the latest directorial offering from Donnie Yen, who's probably best known this side of the world for being the fight choreographer on "Blade 2" and the likes. It's his take on the popular Rose Noir superhero myth. Here, Rose (played by HK comedienne Teresa Mo) is presented as an aging, delusional hasbeen with a split personality and a pathological hatred of men. She lives in a huge gothic mansion accompanied only by a robot called Jacket who has been programmed to castrate men on sight, using a huge pair of shears it has strapped to its front.
The plot begins with Rose, in a rare moment of lucidity, realising that she's over-the-hill for a superheroine and deciding she needs a protege to carry on this line of work for her.
Enter ubercute Cantonese pop duo The Twins (Gillian Chung and Charlene Choi, whom this film is basically a star vehicle for). Gillian plays Gill, a gifted and intense psychology student prone to violent episodes and random outbursts of kung-fu if anyone ever dares use her last name while talking to her. Charlene is Sandy, a perky young thing who believes herself to be an alien from a planet where everyone looks like the Teletubbies. She lives in and out of single Mum shelters, even though she has no children, claiming that on her planet everyone is called Mum...
Both girls lose their homes on the same day and meet each other by chance while flathunting. As they skip down the street and decide they're going to be great friends, they come across Rose's "Protege Wanted" ad and decide to visit the gothic mansion to apply for the job. After setting them a couple of traps, which the girls somehow find their way out of, Rose decides they are worthy successors and begins a vigourous training course that includes lots of costume changes, a gratuitous bubble bath, some amazingly weird magic pills and potions (including the Tricky Capsule (easily the funniest scene in the film!)) and a lengthy, side-splitting pastiche of Jackie Chan in "Drunken Master".
Add to this mix an accident-prone taxi driver called Jim Lo (Ekin Cheung - playing his now customary hapless goofball) who falls in love with Sandy, then top it all off with a supervillain called Miss LavenCam who is terrorising the city with the help of a rogue fashion model and a schoolgirl with mean kung-fu skills, and you've got yourself a recipe for... ...well, one complete mess, to be honest! But it's such a colourful, wildly ridiculous mess that I couldn't help but enjoy it. The production values are surprisingly good, with some wacky over-the-top set/costume designs, sharply directed fight choreography and lively camerawork throughout. I can't really fault the film for trying but I'd warn anyone considering watching it that they need a very high Nonsense Tolerance if they want to make it through the whole thing. Please don't expect it to actually make sense by the end. Also, I should mention to tread carefully as there is a musical number involved and it's sang almost to the tune of "Silent Night". Sadly, Jacket The Robot is the only main cast member to not get involved in the singing...
All in all though, "Gin chap hak mooi gwai" is a painless, inoffensive and often very amusing way to pass 90 minutes or so of your life and, I guarantee that, in almost every scene, you won't see what's coming until it happens... If you can't raise at least one smile by the end of the film, you should check to see if you even have a pulse left.
Overall Score: A timekilling and oddly endearing 6.5 out of 10.
[NOTE: As a bonus for those with masochistic tendencies, there are some torturous 'Engrish' subtitles on the Universe R3 DVD release of this film which make it an even more surreal experience than it's supposed to be. For example, the statement "Compared with those munta you're the best one" is responded to with an equally novel "mutton? yammy yammy!" and my favourite subtitle in the movie has to be "Boss, you picking rubbish again? You become a rich by picking rubbish". Yes, it's painful to read...]