Hong Kong, 2010, colour, 2.35:1, 95 mins.
Director: Peng Haoxiang 彭浩翔 [Pang Ho-cheung].
Gleefully violent and blackly satirical elements don’t quite mesh in this Category III shocker.
Hong Kong, 2008. Zheng Lichang (He Chaoyi) works round the clock cold-selling bank loans and working in a department store to buy a dream flat (with a sea view) she had always wanted for her late parents. But as property prices make it more and more difficult to realise her dream, she starts out on a murderous rampage.
After giving some stark statistics about Hong Kong’s inflated property prices and the average wage, the opening titles of Dream Home 维多利亚壹号 conclude, “If you want to survive in this crazy city, you have to become even crazier.” This cockeyed tribute by maverick director Peng Haoxiang 彭浩翔 [Pang Ho-cheung] to extreme Category III films of the 1980s and 1990s starts with a brilliant idea and has some great moments along the way but, as so often, doesn’t quite manage to make all the bits cohere as the audience expects.
Basically set during one horrifically murderous night in 2008, as a hard-saving Hong Konger, played by He Chaoyi 何超仪 [Josie Ho], decides to take matters into her own hands to get her dream flat, the film incorporates a complicated flashback structure to explain how she got where she is, both financially and emotionally. We see her growing up in a typically crowded family flat in the 1990s, dropping out of university to help her parents, their deaths before she can afford a new flat for them, and her more recent, lacklustre affaire with a married businessman, played by Chen Yixun 陈奕迅 [Eason Chan], in rented hotel rooms and cars.
All of these flashbacks are individually okay but, partly due to the piecemeal structure, there’s no sustained sense of growing frustration either in the script or in the rather blank performance by He (whose company 852 Films funded the movie) to explain what finally triggered her character to change from a nice young woman to a cold-hearted slasher. In the old Category III days, the deranged murderer – usually played by Huang Qiusheng 黄秋生 [Anthony Wong], who was originally announced to be in Dream Home – was clearly mad from the outset, and the direction similarly over-heated. Peng’s direction is too cool to bridge the yawning psychological gap in his anti-heroine.
The scenes of ultra-violence, however, are enough to satisfy any genre fan, and deliriously cross the line into bad taste: a pregnant woman, male genitals, drugs ‘n’ sex, disembowelling – all are grist to Peng’s Category III mill. Like the famously prolonged murder scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain (1966), the slaughter often seems deliberately staged in a messy way, to show just how hard it actually is to kill human beings (the pregnant woman of Ye Xuan 叶璇 [Michelle Ye], the security guard of Wang Qing 王青). South Koreans and Mainlanders also come in for some stick in the script co-written by Peng’s colleagues on Isabella 伊莎贝拉 (2006), Yin Zhiwen 尹志文 [Jimmy Wan] and Zeng Guoxiang 曾国祥 [Derek Tsang], the latter also playing a sleazoid murder victim. And the nicest irony isn’t lost: that the main character’s bank job was all part of the global financial meltdown just around the corner.
Presented by 852 Films (HK). Produced by Making Film Productions (HK).
Script: Peng Haoxiang [Pang Ho-cheung], Zeng Guoxiang [Derek Tsang], Yin Zhiwen [Jimmy Wan]. Original story: Peng Haoxiang [Pang Ho-cheung]. Photography: Yu Liwei. Editing: Li Dongchuan [Wenders Li]. Music: Gabriele Roberto. Production design: Wen Nianzhong [Man Lim-chung]. Art direction: Jiang Hanlin [Jeffrey Kong]. Sound: Du Duzhi. Action: Qian Jiale [Chin Ka-lok], Huang Weihui. Visual effects: He Peijian, Liang Weijie, Wu Xuanhui, Wang Yinghao. Special make-up: Vitaya Deerattakul, Lian Kai. Titles: Wang Yinghao.
Cast: He Chaoyi [Josie Ho] (Zheng Lichang), Chen Yixun [Eason Chan] (Xiaodu), Zeng Guoxiang [Derek Tsang] (Xiang), Zhou Junwei (An), Ye Xuan [Michelle Ye] (pregnant woman), Dan Liwen (flat owner), Song Xiaocheng, Zhou Chuchu (Mainland partygirls), Xu Shaoqiang (Zheng Lichang’s father), Bao Qijing [Paw Hee-ching] (Zheng Lichang’s mother), Lu Haipeng (Zheng Lichang’s grandfather), Chen Fei (Bai Mao/White Hair), Mai Junlong [Juno Mak], Luo Yingjun [Felix Lok] (policemen), Wang Qing (security guard in opening), Du Rufeng (Mei/May), Wen Zhenshan (Wen), Yu Shidi (Cindy), Chen Liling (hotel receptionist), Zhou Huijian (Wen’s cousin), Gu Zulin [Jo Kuk] (pregnant woman’s friend), Dewi Ariyanti (Filipina maid), Liang Ziqing (young Zheng Lichang), Bao Zhongmin (Zheng Lichang’s brother), Zheng Zaosen (Jimmy), Zhou Songxi (student with red paint), Ouyang Zhijian (man with red paint), Tan Gancong, Yang Zhongyao (triads), Deng Wenjun (security guard), Liu Weiheng (Nelson), Yu Liwei (Hua), Chen Qiting (sister in hospital), Chen Jiacheng (brother in hospital), Yang Li’na (mother in hospital), Wu Guihong (doctor), Yu Weida (insurance agent), Xu Xianzeng (bank manager), Li Guohua (lawyer), Luo Yilin (Mr. Zeng), Sun Huilian (Mrs. Zeng), Wu Guoming (worker).
Premiere: Udine Far East Film Festival, 23 Apr 2010.
Release: Hong Kong, 13 May 2010.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 14 May 2010.)