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ENTER THE PHOENIX (Da Lao Ai Mei Li)
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Sound format: Dolby Digital
Teen idol Stephen Fung directed and co-wrote this frothy nonsense - his first solo directorial effort - in which the conventions of 'Triad cinema' are basically turned on their head. Unsurprisingly, Fung tapped Daniel Wu for the leading role, not only because they began their careers together as co-stars in BISHONEN (1998) and have been paired in numerous movies since - including GEN-X COPS (1999) and DEVIL FACE, ANGEL HEART (2002) - but also because Wu is one of the few topline actors in Hong Kong willing to take risks with his screen persona, even in something as innocuous as ENTER THE PHOENIX. Here, he plays a young gay man forging a successful career in Thailand after being exiled many years earlier by his estranged father (screen legend Yuen Biao), the head of a wealthy Triad organization. When Yuen dies, his minions (represented by comic father-and-son duo Law Kar-ying and Chapman To) are ordered to retrieve the boy and establish him as head of the family business, but Law and To mistake Wu's straight roommate Eason Chan for Yuen's absent son, and Wu is happy to play along with the deception, until a childhood rival (played by Fung himself) emerges from the shadows to avenge his father's death at Yuen's hands...
This light-hearted romp touches all the necessary bases, but the results are decidedly mixed. Comedy is emphasized at the expense of drama and tension, and the narrative wanders from scene to scene, without apparent motive, taking a mixed cast of veterans and newcomers along for the ride: Fung and Wu are the nominal stars of the show, and both are fine in their respective roles, but Chan (currently one of HK's most popular lightweight actors) takes center stage as the Chow Yun-fat wannabe whose fantasies of a glamorous Triad lifestyle are shot down in flames by the dangerous reality of life in the firing line. Industry stalwart Michael Chan plays a rival gangster who must preserve the status quo in the wake of Yuen's death, while comedy favorite Karen Mok essays the role of Michael Chan's daughter, a scatterbrained insurance employee who falls for Wu whilst struggling to emerge from her father's shadow (thankfully, this is one gay movie in which the heroine *doesn't* get her man!). Watch out for crowd-pleasing cameo appearances by Nicholas Tse (playing someone with an extremely rude name!), Sam Lee and co-producer Jackie Chan.
Lavishly mounted on a blockbuster budget, the movie is wholly commercial in concept and execution, though the director's lack of confidence is betrayed by some rough edges, including fluffed linking shots and a tendency toward self-indulgence. Fung's lack of experience is further exposed during the various fight scenes (choreographed by action director Ma Yuk-sing), all of which are filmed and edited in a fluid, cinematic style at odds with the surrounding footage, and the rousing climax becomes a celebration of 'wire-fu' as Fung and Wu engage in hand-to-hand combat. In other departments, the wide frame (derived from a Super 35 negative) looks cramped and misaligned in places, and there's a surfeit of close-ups which minimizes the film's visual impact, though novice cinematographer Davy Chow is co-billed alongside veteran Poon Hang-sang (one of the finest DP's in Hong Kong movie history, an old-school technician whose luxurious compositions recall the Technicolor glamour of a bygone era), who was clearly responsible for some of the movie's most striking images, including a superbly rendered sequence in which Chan arrives at the ceremony where he'll be sworn-in as Yuen's successor, filmed in slow motion amidst a sea of umbrellas during a dramatic rainstorm.
The film's 'gay' element is basically a red herring, used as comic relief for the most part, and while some of the material borders on crude stereotype, Wu himself plays the central character with great dignity, reaffirming his status as a gay icon. Ultimately, however, the movie is uneven and disappointing, though redeemed by its energetic cast. If Fung can resist playing to the gallery in future, he might yet prove himself a director of note, far beyond the loyalty of his devoted fan base.
NB. The witty animated icon which accompanies the on-screen title is a particularly nice touch, and wholly typical of this freewheeling extravaganza.
This movie rocks! * The jokes are genuinely funny, and have quite broad appeal. The action at the end is gloriously over the top and the performances are excellent. The plot is quite clever and irreverent. One of the most positive elements of the films is the portrayal of gay characters. Apart from one quite distasteful scene involving a doctors checkup the gay characters are presented as real people not stereotypes and can even kick butt if the need arises. Hollywood take note this is how it should be done . ****/*****
It's not a simple task, giving this movie a review. Especially, I
should add, because I've seen it right after seeing the movie
"Bishonen", whose two stars are featured here as well, one even directs
Keeping this in mind, you may not be as surprised to hear that I was greatly thankful for the movie. Whereas "Bishonen" broke my heart, this movie revived it, and it was no easy task.
The plot starts with a face-off of the Triad's highest ranking members, which results in an accidental killing. Following this, said members swear not to harm one another any longer. However, a little boy is left an orphan, and he will seek to avenge his father later on.
25 years later and the "Big Brother" is dying. He asks his second in command to bring back his son and make sure he takes over the crime organization. The son, however, is gay and not interested in the job. His straight roommate is. So the switching of roles begins.
It's a light-hearted comedy which sets out to make fun of the usual clichés and does so extremely well. I think the moments dealing with the clichés are some of the best in the movie. At the same time, it also oozes with coolness during some scenes (the swearing of the new "Big Brother", the final action sequence at the end of the movie).
Not all is perfect with this movie. Some jokes are a bit crude, some comic scenes are somewhat over-acted (the fake son crying at his father's funeral, for example) and the plot doesn't always make all that much sense. Still, it made me laugh out loud at times, it was also had touching moments that ran deep in a way a lot of serious dramas don't manage to, Daniel Wu's character - the real son of "Big Brother" - is interesting and wonderful, not to mention stereotype-breaking as a gay man you *would* want to head a Triad.
Personally, I'd love to see a sequel, and that in itself says a lot. I even have the basic plot figured out, so I have no doubt it can (and should) be done.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well well, this waste of celluloid has probably been labeled
'gay-friendly', although the ONLY non-stereotyped element is that the
character played by Daniel Wu can fight: oh, what a surprise it is, did
he really think that this would redeem him for all the disgusting
stereotypes he inserted in his so-called 'film', or did perhaps this
no-brain sick head think that it was revolutionary to suggest that gay
men are able to fight? Talking of these disgusting stereotypes, there
are two that are particularly repulsive in this strong bias of a waste
of celluloid: 1) a scene where a gay triad member puts his entire hand
into a roasted pig's arse!!! 2) another scene where one of the female
characters asks the character played by Daniel Wu: 'When did you first
know you were gay?' and we see immediately an image of him as a child
with a thermometer in his rectum!!! That clearly borders, or even fully
is, ... pedophilia.
Well, checking Stephen Fung's background, it comes as no surprise, since he started acting in 'Bishonen', another falsely 'gay-friendly' film, that of course ends badly: this was, I am sure, the only reason why he starred in this previous crap, because he probably thought, like a huge quantity of empty brains like his, that it couldn't be otherwise: since it ends badly, the general, good straight-laced morale was preserved, so contrarily to what many think, he wasn't putting his actor image at risk AT ALL.
And it goes the same way in this commercial crap, since the so-holy disgusting venerated stereotypes are inserted and overused: I do therefore not acknowledge him as a director, but just as a lousy film cutter at best. Moreover, it should also be noted that in his next film, 'House of Fury' although it doesn't deal with homosexuality at all, he couldn't help himself inserting a gay stereotyped character.
I, and I am sure, many viewers don't give a damn about his homophobic obsessions, and definitely wish that his career will be ruined one day: he deserves it far more than Edison Chen, whose only fault was to bring his computer to repair without erasing the photos of him having sex with actresses, that a bigot employee with no respect for private life at all, (After all, these women were all adults) and with a super straight-laced morale like Stephen fung's, was so eager to display to the view of the whole population of Hong Kong...
And a fine film he had made.
The plot was nothing special, a boss (Yuen Biao) whose dying wish was that his son (Daniel Wu) he never loved to take over for him. In this case, the son is gay and he brought along with his friend (play by Eason Chan) who purposely act has Hung's son.
What make this movie great is the pace of the film, the subplot and the movie is just hilarious. The Almost 3 way triangle between Karen Mok, Eason Chan and Dainel Wu was excellent. Seeing Law Kar-Ying was hilarious, and Chapman To was funny most of the time. The cameo from Nic Tse, Sammi Cheng and Jackie Chan was beautiful put, Sammi Cheng was super funny for her role. This movie is still not perfect, like the ending ( a fight scene) was cheesily, has in look fake, done. Also the gay aspect can be annoying at time. Nevertheless the flow of the movie work perfectly and the acting was above par. Also i like to give my head up on the triad angle was shot very well.
Stephen Fung show high potential to be a great director, with the help from Jackie Chan i can see he can make a lot more great film.
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