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Raymond Bak-Ming Wong
Continuing along the same high standard typifying Golden Chicken definitely belongs in the tough nut to crack department, a fact evident in its sequel's much less inspiring results.
For those who don't recall, the first movie in the series has Sandra Ng as Kam, a golden hearted prostitute and massage parlor figurehead, telling viewers and a reluctant captive listener (Eric Tsang) her life story. Amid scores of hilariously witty revelries and endless tribulations, Golden Chicken pulls off a supremely sentimental homage to the great city of Hong Kong and all it's been through. Therefore, Kam really equals HK, and the two stories shouldn't be taken apart. Much the same formula resurfaces in GC2. An excellently funny opening segment presents Hong Kong circa 2046, as an old Kam climbs the peak to look at the place where she spent her life, and to ponder what it all means. The 2046 setting basically allows for expanding the film's time horizon, as well as a nice jab at Wong Kar Wai's oft-delayed sci-fi project, 2046. However, differing from its predecessor, GC2 mostly focuses on a short period in HK history, .i.e Spring 2003, or SARS. It does, however, go back and forth in time to shed light on various moments in its protagonists' existence, at one point rewinding to the early 80's, trailing Kam and her high school shenanigans.
But mostly, if you've seen Golden Chicken already, you'll undoubtedly know what to expect here. Once more, Kam latches on to a hapless witness as stories come pouring out of her. This time it's Chapman To, a rising star in HK at the moment, here doing a disaffected youth desiring erasure of all his memories to avoid remembrance of heartache and shattered expectations. To sway him from this despotic plan, Kam proceeds with her own sordid anecdotes, wanting to show there's a lot to say for having memories (and mammaries, in light of her occupational choices).
Tripping down history lane, we meet many a weirdo, like freaky love interest Mr. Chow (Anthony Wong), a fugitive mental patient (Ronald Cheng) and conman cousin Quincy (Jacky Cheung). Sadly, most of these leave you thinking what the hell, with both Wong and Cheng's characters culminating in annoyance rather than enjoyment. The film could have done better without them. On the other hand, Jacky Cheung comes back to the big screen in his most comprehensive role since 2002's July Rhapsody, depicting Kam's trickster relation and all-out business failure. However, through him we finally untangle some of the questions left unanswered from GC1, especially as per Kam's ATM experiences. No matter your take on the sequel, Cheung's sterling performance contributes volumes to its success, and literally eclipses Sandra Ng, who by now feels a bit samey and tired.
Injecting events with a more tragic note, Leon Lai comes into the picture as a SARS-fighting doctor frequenting Kam's newly acquired diner as the infection ravages HK. Suffering from fatigue and shun by all around him, the good doc seeks refuge in our leading lady's much vaunted bossom, although ultimately his screen time remains limited, not allowing Lai's character to develop.
What makes the original Golden Chicken so powerfully awesome lies in its sheer emotional potential, as one realizes the story parallels that of Hong Kong. Done through mesmerising, real life video sequences, particularly close to the movie's end, it's all that's needed to make audiences break down and commence weeping. Some of this effect finds its way into GC2, but to a far lesser extent. As a consequence, while specific moments in the movie do convey touching notions (mostly to do with SARS, naturally), overall it stands as less penetrating and more airheaded than its forefather.
Thus we reach GC2's primary downfall. Stripped of the same strong characterization, relevant sitcom placement and emotive impact of Golden Chicken, this follow up disappoints those keen on seeing the series continue unhindered. In general, Golden Chicken 2 probably maxes out the franchise's shelf-life, veering too close to standard comedy for comfort. It can all be excused as sophomoric blues syndrome, but even so, the let-down still stings.
Rating: * * *
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