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Tian xia wu shuang (2002)
OK, here's another Chinese New Year offering that almost slipped through our fingers. The festive period has come and gone, but better late than never (for a review). Judging from what this film has to offer, it's no loss if you missed it in the midst of all that festive bingeing.
THE ESCAPE...Royal siblings (played by Faye Wong & Chang Chen) plotting their escape.
The story is set in ancient China and centres on two pairs of siblings. Faye Wong and Chang Chen are of royal blood while Tony Leung and Vicky Zhao Wei play commoners from a distant village.
The emperor and princess find life behind palace walls too mundane, and are always plotting their escape. Most of the time, the Empress Dowager and the palace guards foil their plans. Eventually, only the princess manages to escape, disguised as a man.
In comes the other set of siblings. Lung (Leung), the village bully, is an uncouth and rough man whose ambition in life is to just be a drifter. He has a younger sister, Phoenix, a tomboyish girl who operates a small restaurant and is looking for her true love. COMMONERS...Meet Lung (Leung, left), the village bully and his tomboyish sister, Phoenix (Vicky Zhao Wei).
Things get complicated when the princess arrives at the village and meets the siblings. She is attracted to Lung and vice versa. This confuses Lung (she is disguised as a man, remember?), so he sets out to match make his sister with his new friend. At the same time, Phoenix is also attracted to the princess.
The situation gets messier when the prince manages to find his way to the village, where he soon falls for Phoenix.
As a whole, there is no smooth flow to the story being told. Firstly, the flick jumps from one subplot to the next as and when it pleases. Besides that, mindless gags and jokes are carelessly thrown in and even though they do elicit laughter, the constant barrage of lame jokes gets a little tiring after an hour or so.
In a tale like this, the romance between the characters feels like fluff. So when the time calls for some supposedly heart-wrenching moments, it doesn't have much of an impact on the viewer.
You can't really develop any sympathy for the characters when everything is one big joke, can you? You tend to expect that the next moment will make you laugh. But sadly, genuinely funny scenes are few and far between. What you get mostly is silly humour. FAIR PRINCESS...Faye Wong looking absolutely lovely when not dressed up as a man.
Tony Leung seems to be comfortable taking on a comic role like this. Noted for his performances in artsy and serious films like In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express Leung proves that he's a versatile actor. Chang Chen, who is famous for his role in Crouching Tiger, also gingerly tackles his role as the emperor who sports an Afro.
Vicky Zhao Wei (My Fair Princess) is as adorable as ever with her huge, expressive eyes, while Faye Wong is OK as the very feminine looking man. But a good cast does not guarantee a good production if the material they have to work with is bad.
A friend summed up the movie very nicely with one word. When asked what she thought about the flick, she replied: `Nonsense.'