3 October 2011 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: Lan Kwai Fong
It's like the local equivalent of Boat Quay, Clarke Quay or Mohammad Sultan Road in its heyday, a film set against famous watering hole backdrops, that if a local equivalent was to be made there will be no short of locales, only for the filmmaker to decide where exactly to set it for maximum iconic mileage, and to spin some stories that encompasses the spirit of the location. I have been to Lan Kwai Fong some years back with a group of friends, but the funny thing is we never really found the place at first, walking around in circles trying to figure it out pre-GPS days, before suddenly realizing we're actually smack in the middle of it. Which made me realize that if you're not part of the crowd, that stretch of road may seem like any other, and quite unremarkable.
My personal opinion that is. I suppose if you're never really part of something, you'll never really figure out its appeal. I'm not a party goer and find not much joy in having to hang out with a bunch of friends trying to be trendy, to see and be seen with the cool cat club, talking a lot but saying nothing, drinking for the sake of getting alcohol into the system - chugging down copious amounts of liquor will make my liver frown, and probably hope for some hook up to take place that will either lead back to someone's home, or the ubiquitous toilet. I never believed in finding anyone significant in a pub, nor become firm friends with party revelers, at least not off the cuff with the help of social lubricants.
That, in essence, is this film. Written and directed by Wilson Chin, there's nothing too profound in its underlying message should there be one to begin with. If it's the filmmaker's intent to show how superficial and vacuous lives in a pub is, then this film will be a great success, since it's noisy and scattered, like someone suffering from ADD without focus nor giving much depth to anything. Everything's on the surface, with revelers portrayed as very one-dimensional, either there to look for booty, to feel or be felt up, to drink plenty and be entertained, or some characters are there quite reluctantly just to keep an eye on somebody else.
There are reputations to keep and uphold, and reputations that go down the drain once exposed for the fraud they are. This accounts for its fairly adult rating with the very good looking, ensemble cast in various states of undress, the female of the species being more so in a skin flick. I suppose the poster with the cast in all sorts of lingerie will form the pull factor for anyone without a clue what this film is about, to give it a go, coupled with the name of the famous street in Hong Kong. It begins in noisy fashion set inside a pub run by Jacky (Jason Chan, who looks like a deadringer for a younger Donnie Yen with plenty of eyeliner), who has his bunch of regular patrons ranging from a reformed triad chief, to a liquor salesman Steven (Zo), to new thrill seekers such as a group of stewardesses on a night's out to paint the town red, one out to hook up with rich men in order to be showered with gifts, and her friend Jennifer (Shiga Lin) whose blossoming love life with Steven forms the fluffy romantic anchor of the narrative.
Other subplots also bloat the narrative, with the village/pub bicycle who's a regular at the venue only to be tapped up for quickies, and seriously what transpired in her fairy tale ending is something which I think only exists in films (see, I really don't belong to this crowd), and that of a Chuck and Larry type character who's idea of being gay is to be thought of as safe. Naturally the policemen were not put under good light, painted as party poopers who come in droves, turn on the lights, and have everyone's identities checked, thrash talking and being thrash talked to.
The film can be thought of as pieces of disparate short films being put together with makeshift scenes to combine characters from different threads in one setting and glue them all up, but effectively many aspects of the film get repeated like you're in the house enjoying its trance offering that you're never able to strike up anything deeper in meaning or with the characters. Do we care for them? Not quite, as they're adults who knowingly get into what they were looking for to begin with, and the troubles that come their way are nothing unexpected, and quite rote for a film narrative to cover them that it becomes almost tele- movie like in substance.
It's a trip down memory lane with all the outdoor shots of Lan Kwai Fong, that has induced me to make another trip to the street during my next Hong Kong trip sometime in future. Maybe not to be seen, but definitely to see what I had probably missed the first time round.