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Review: Revenge for Love (2017)

Revenge for Love

疯岳撬佳人

China, 2017, colour, 2.35:1, 92 mins.

Director: Zhong Shaoxiong 钟少雄 [Billy Chung].

Rating: 5/10.

Routine comedy romance showcasing stand-up comedian Yue Yunpeng in his first lead role.

STORY

Tianjin, northern China, the present day. Posing as the head of a technology firm, thirtysomething Li Shuaiting (Yue Yunpeng) hires hi-tech dating agency Newly Born Love Centre 新生爱情中心 for RMB380,000 to make his onetime university friend Zhang Zimo (Yuan Shanshan) publically declare her love for him. She designs jewellery using Chinese porcelain sherds for her own company MoSpace; he is an orderly in a nursing home who’s been given a lot of money by one of his wealthy patients after saving his life one day. The NBLC team, led by owner An Ran (Ma Yuan), arranges for Zhang Zimo’s beloved dog Erzi (“Son”) to be “stolen” and then for Li Shuaiting to fortuitously arrive on the scene, the two to recognise each other, and he to help her. The plan goes wrong when the dog is stolen by real thieves but Li Shuaiting and Zhang Zimo manage to get the animal back. (Li Shuaiting always secretly fancied Zhang Zimo at university 10 years ago but when he publically proposed to her at an award ceremony he was humiliated by her refusal. She thought he was just a geeky, long-haired fattie.) The pair have a celebration lunch but are interrupted by the appearance of her ex-boyfriend, ambitious actor Fang Jie (Sun Jian), who again makes a play for her. An old classmate, Yanzi (Gu Zheng), also tries to reconcile Zhang Zimo and Fang Jie by inviting both to her wedding. Chaos breaks out when some love scents that the NBLC team have prepared for Li Shuaiting fall into the wrong hands. Later, Li Shuaiting gets the NBLC team to make a public laughing stock of Fang Jie at a hotel, watched by Zhang Zimo. Afterwards the two celebrate but Zhang Zimo drinks too much and passes out at home. One day Zhang Zimo approaches Zhu Da (Shi Xiaoman), owner of china showcase Porcelain House 瓷房子, to realise her dream of holding an exhibition of her designs in his building. She then discovers that Li Shuaiting is an orderly at the nursing home where Zhu Da currently lives.

REVIEW

In his first leading role, Mainland stand-up comedian Yue Yunpeng 岳云鹏, 32, proves that, though he’s fine on TV or for guest spots/supporting roles in others’ movies (best pal in I Belonged to You 从你的全世界路过, 2016; office lacky in Buddies in India 大闹天竺, 2017), he doesn’t yet have the wherewithal to carry a production on his own. Directed by (of all people) Hong Kong genre journeyman Zhong Shaoxiong 钟少雄 [Billy Chung], a longtime member of the Wang Jing 王晶 [Wong Jing] factory making his first Mainland movie, Revenge for Love 疯岳撬佳人 is a routine comedy-romance about a shy tubby having another go at getting his onetime college love to fall for him. Released as a Valentine’s Day attraction, it scraped a weak RMB64 million on the strength of Yue’s name.

Six people – including some with commercial experience like Zha Wenbai 查文白 and Yu Qiao 虞俏 – are credited with the script, which is basically a series of comic episodes as Yue’s character (a nursing-home orderly posing as a rich businessman) hires a dating agency to fix him up with an ambitious designer he fancied at college. It’s a classic beauty-and-the-geek odd-couple comedy set in the go-getting world of urban New China, but underscored by the bitter fact that, when he last declared his love for her a decade ago, she totally humiliated him in public. Now, by a chance of fate, he has the money to make her change her mind. Maybe.

The screenplay hardly explores much of its potential, settling instead for a series of comic episodes and incidental fluff designed to showcase Yue and his co-star Yuan Shanshan 袁姗姗, 30, a mainly TV actress who played the heroine in superhero spoof Jianbing Man 煎饼侠 (2015) and stole the spotlight in comedy So, I Married My Anti-Fan 所以……和黑粉结婚了 (2016). The two do their things in a professional way but there’s no special chemistry between them: Yue’s quiet, likeable style needs a more nuanced vehicle than this, and Yuan is largely stuck in a reactive role as the duped quarry. As an ex-boyfriend, Sun Jian 孙坚 (The Big Lie Bang 谎言大爆炸, 2016) is colourless.

Singlehandedly stealing the show is veteran Shi Xiaoman 石小满, 62, as the wealthy benefactor of Yue’s character who slyly re-orchestrates the plot. Cameos dot the cast – Ai Lun 艾伦 (Never Say Die 羞羞的铁拳, 2017) as a college friend, Yue’s comic mentor Guo Degang 郭德纲 as his character’s father – but to no great effect. Zhong, who’s better known for crime movies (Lady Super Cop 超级警察之女儿当自强, 1993; Love to Kill 虐之恋, 1993; Paramount Hotel 情陷百乐门, 2000), turns in a routinely smooth production, with fellow Hong Kong import, veteran d.p. Huang Jiahui 黄家辉, providing bright but otherwise unremarkable visuals. Though set in Tianjin – whose Porcelain House 瓷房子 museum plays a key role – the film appears to have been partly shot in nearby Beijing.

The Chinese title literally means “Crazy Yue Prises Open a Beautiful Woman”.

CREDITS

Presented by Beijing Xidada Development Culture (CN), Zhejiang Wishart Film (CN), Shandong Film & TV (CN), Beijing JQ Culture (CN), MUKR Pictures (CN), Beijing Jiayuanhai Film Production (CN), Century Wana Film & Media Beijing (CN), Lakala Pictures (CN), Tianjin Qianyu Movie & TV Culture Media (CN), Beijing Chase Pictures (CN), A Production Pictures (CN).

Script: Zha Wenbai, Yu Qiao, Hu Feiyu, Qiu Huaiyang, Gui Dongming, Zhang Yihui. Photography: Huang Jiahui. Editing: Du Yuan. Music: Zhou Jiaojiao. Music supervision: Dong Wei. Art direction: Yang Haoyu. Styling: Li Shanwei. Sound: Wang Tong, Yin Jie. Action: Nie Jun. Visual effects: Du Keyan. Executive direction: Chen Weixiong.

Cast: Yue Yunpeng (Li Shuaiting), Yuan Shanshan (Zhang Zimo), Sun Jian (Fang Jie), Ma Yuan (An Ran/Ryan), Shi Xiaoman (Zhu Da), Guo Degang (Li Shuaiting’s father), Ai Lun (Ma Ke, college friend), Yang Neng (dog thieves’ boss), Pan Binlong (Dingdang, college friend), Tang Jingmei (Jiajia, An Ran’s female assistant), Zhang Lei (Gao Ming), Guo Ruohan (Ruohan), Gu Zheng (Yanzi, bride), Sun Bang (Sun Bang, groom), Guo Xiaofang (director).

Release: China, 14 Feb 2017.