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Anthony Yiu-Ming Wong,
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A Chinese doctor/herbalist has the uncanny ability to discern a problem with just a superficial touch on the pulse and look at the tongue. This little romantic comedy about such a person could benefit from such an exam.
Although many of the ingredients for success are here, something doesn't quite gel. Koo has played this same type of role many times, and, in watching this movie, I was instantly reminded of Koo and Sammi Cheng in "Love for All Seasons" -- another movie about a handsome player who gets hooked up with a misfit female Chinese medicine practitioner with a talent for Kung Fu. In both films, the player has his sights set on the successful beauty while the misfit heroine pines away for him. While nowhere near as wacky as "Love for All Seasons" (2003), "Dry Wood, Fierce Fire" (2002) lacks the incredulous "convincibility" of the Cheng-Koo film and the goofy charm that inexplicably existed between the guileless Cheng and worldly Koo. Yeung here seems to get off to a well-intentioned but false start. The humor is thin and seems unable to sustain the plot shortcomings.
While a fan of Yeung's music, I confess I thought this was the first Yeung film I'd seen and that it may have been her first film-- apparently, it wasn't. She had appeared previously in Feel 100% II (also with Sammi Cheng) but something had rendered her presence in the earlier film a blank in my mind. I think that's because while quite pleasant, Yeung is not as dynamic as the screen demands her to be-- at least here. Pity. A touch more over the top goofiness and she might have nailed it. But she does come close at times, just not quite enough. At times, she seemed downright uncomfortable in character. She never owned it, nor did she seem to be enjoying it the way she should have been.
I think there is an inevitable, uncomfortable comparison to Cheng here. This is the type of film that Cheng thrives on. Moreover, Yeung's "new hair cut" and reddish tint when her character makes the great leap forward are all too identifiable with Cheng. The fault isn't all Yeung's, tepid writing and some pacing problems are evident, stranding the potential comic romantic misfire in a state of perpetual kindling. On the whole a not so bad, mildly sweet little movie that might have been a little more.
5.5 out of 10 for a good solid, supporting cast and some moments of tempered sweetness.
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