16 February 2013 | moviexclusive
Let's put it this way - if your other half were as humourless and as unromantic as 'Together', you'll file for separation right away
Which guy in the right mind would break up with a girlfriend as hot as Chrissie Chau - even if he is someone as unflappable as Donnie Yen? OK we digress, but that is the most lasting impression we have of 'Together', a shockingly inept movie that can't quite decide what it wants to be nor knows how to get there. Billed as a rom-com, it is anything but, since it possesses not one shred of comedy – or for that matter, romance. Instead, amidst the construct of the latter, it adds in both mystery and thriller elements, but the awkward combination falls flat right from the get-go.
There are two unrelated stories here, neither of which prove to be engaging. The first has action star Donnie Yen playing a police officer simply called Cool Sir, who falls in love with an amnesiac named Jojo (Michelle Chen) whom he stops for speeding one day. Turns out the paths of Cool Sir and Jojo have crossed before – as a recurring flashback hints – and that encounter had left Jojo with her current condition and Cool Sir with a rare inability to smile.
Contrived though it may sound, we are still willing to take Cool Sir's temporary disability at face value – if only the writers had weaved a more convincing story between him and Jojo. As it is, we are not told why Cool Sir is drawn to Jojo (and would therefore break up with his on-off girlfriend played by Chrissie!). Neither are we told why Jojo's parents and best friend would seem to cotton on to their budding affinity at first, and then later on try to keep Cool Sir away from Jojo when her absentee fiancée of two years turns up unexpectedly.
That mid-act twist makes the obligatory happily-ever-after ending even more unbelievable, and with such thinly drawn characters, we're not surprised that Donnie and Michelle share close to zero chemistry with each other. In particular, we pity Donnie, who must have taken a calculated risk accepting the lead role in a romantic film next to the considerably younger Michelle. Just about the most inspired thing that the scriptwriters could come up with is that absurd disability his character is saddled with, which in effect gives him an excuse to look serious all the time.
Even more terrible is the other half of the movie, which pairs Taiwanese star Kai Ko with Angelababy. Kai Ko is Boy, the youngest member of an expert team of police officers specialising in wiretapping simply (or inanely), while Angelababy is Nam Lee, a fast-rising employee of a 'Newater-like' company. Using just about the most popular social media app in Mainland China today (i.e. WeChat), the two bump into each other one day and decide to play a game to date each other for seven days but not to fall in love.
Well of course they do, and insofar as the seven days are concerned, there is a fairly whimsical tone that fits the sunny personalities of both Boy and Nam Lee nicely. Yet again, the scriptwriters attempt to be smarter than they actually are by engineering a mid-act twist, this time in the form of Nam Lee's smarmy CEO (Bosco Wong), who Boy and his team are investigating for commercial fraud. That becomes the source of unnecessary tension between the two, with Boy filled with suspicion at Nam Lee's possible duplicity and therefore stalking her day and night.
As with the first story, the twist is forced and superfluous, adding little to make the love between Boy and Nam Lee any more convincing. Yet unlike the one with Cool Sir and Jojo, at least Kai Ko and Angelababy look better suited for each other, the former's straight-laced act a good complement for the latter's spiritedness. Still, it is neither imaginative enough as a fantasy nor realistic enough as a real-life story, and displays an inordinate tendency to take unnecessary detours with needless supporting acts like Taiwanese star King Kong as an over- eager delivery man (whom Boy hires to send his signature pork chop rice to Nam Lee on a daily basis as well) as well as Benz Hui and Kingdom Yuen as Boy's parents.
It isn't just the story that leaves much to be desired; the storytelling is just as dreadful. We're not quite sure why director Clarence Fok was picked to direct this – after all besides some cheesily entertaining '80s movies, the guy has entirely no credibility in front of the camera. And 'Together' is ample proof of his incompetence – individual scenes have little payoff; the transition between them shows no attempt at pacing; and worst of all, his idea of being romantic is as one-note and shallow as stitching together images of characters looking wistfully at each other in slo-mo while a sappy ballad plays (complete with lyrics at the side, we may add).
Of all the all-star ensemble rom-coms we've seen in recent years, 'Together' is unequivocally the worst of the lot, a toxic combination of bad scripting and appallingly non-existent direction draining away any hope that the cast might make the watch worthwhile. Indeed, you're probably interested in the movie for one of two reasons – to watch Donnie Yen in an uncharacteristic role and/or to watch Michelle Chen and Kai Ko reteam in a movie. We'll do you a favour by telling you straight- off that Donnie is utterly wasted in the role, and Michelle Chen and Kai Ko do not even appear together (pun intended) in any of the scenes. So yes, there are plenty of reasons why 'Together' is a sure contender for one of the worst movies of the year – and why anyone would break up with Chrissie Chau is a good place as any to start.