I Love Hong Kong
Hong Kong, 2011, colour, 2.35:1, 100 mins.
Directors: Zeng Zhiwei 曾志伟 [Eric Tsang], Zhong Shujia 钟澍佳.
Enjoyable Chinese New Year comedy, packed with well-known faces and plenty of retro nostalgia.
Hong Kong, 2009. Following the bankruptcy of his toy factory across the border in Dongguan, Guangdong province, due to the US recession, businessman Wu Shun (Liang Jiahui) moves into the small Kowloon flat of his father Wu Tong (Feng Cuifan) in the area he grew up in during the 1970s and 1980s. Wu Shun also brings along his wife (Wu Junru); grown son Wu Ming (Li Zhiting), a government food and hygiene inspector; 19-year-old daughter Wu Zhi (Lin Xintong), a wannabe model; and younger daughter Wu Jing (Chen Yinglan). Though the place is already crowded, Wu Tong also lets stay his old friend Zheng Ruilong (Zeng Zhiwei), who’s reappeared after years in the US. Wu Shun is less than pleased, remembering how in 1987 Zheng lost him some money on the stock market and then vanished, though they patch things up as they reminisce about their younger selves (Huang Zongze, Wang Zulan). Zheng tells Wu Shun that his old flame Bai Suzhen (Yuan Yongyi) is now back from Canada and is living in the flat below, leading to an embarrassing situation when Wu Shun’s wife catches them together. Meanwhile, to help the family’s finances, Wu Shun’s wife gets a job as a trainee at the I-Sky Beauty clinic run by an old friend, where she’s bullied by the manageress, Koni (Lv Huiyi). By the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival, many of the housing estate’s residents have rediscovered their community spirit, but then find that a government-supported plan to revitalise small trading around the estate is threatened by a big-business concern. And then Zheng, a prime mover in the plan, disappears again.
Made by essentially the same team as 72 Tenants of Prosperity 72家租客 (2010) – Hong Kong directors Zeng Zhiwei 曾志伟 [Eric Tsang] and Zhong Shujia 钟澍佳, producer Television Broadcasts, plus many of the same actors and a heavy roster of TVB artists – I Love Hong Kong 我♥HK 开心万岁 ticks all the boxes that make it a traditional Chinese New Year comedy, with a can-do storyline and ooh-look cameos. It’s also another pointed assertion (in the face of China’s dominance) of Hong Kong’s local Cantonese identity, again via a story that refers back to its glory days, in this case the late 1980s. The surprise, given its full-on title, is that the movie has a lightly self-critical edge and also works on its terms as a character comedy; and unlike 72 Tenants, it’s not hobbled by comparisons with an earlier classic.
With two strong leads in Liang Jiahui 梁家辉 [Tony Leung Ka-fai] and Wu Junru 吴君如 [Sandra Ng], plus a battalion of writers and story contributors that this time includes up-and-coming talent Mai Xiyin 麦曦茵 [Heiward Mak] (Ex 前度, 2010), the dialogue and situations have a much less forced comic rhythm. As a bankrupt businessman who has to move his sizeable family into his father’s small flat, Liang provides a strong anchor for the knockabout comedy, and Wu (apart from a few treasurable sequences, like being wrapped in cellophane or knocked about as a stunt double) largely reins back her histrionic side. Neither dominates the ensemble, which includes fellow veterans like Lin Xue 林雪 [Lam Suet] (in a funny parody of the ball scene in The Mission 枪火, 1999), Feng Cuifan 冯淬帆 [Stanley Fung] as the put-upon father, Yuan Yongyi 袁咏仪 [Anita Yuen] as the businessman’s old flame and producer/co-director Zeng as a nefarious friend from the past.
The nostalgic 1980s flashbacks are also smoothly integrated and look right in a colourful way, with Huang Zongze 黄宗泽 well cast as a younger version of Liang. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Wang Zulan 王祖蓝 as a younger Zeng, though his performance is better than his facial likeness. Of the other youngsters, Li Zhiting 李治廷 [Aarif Lee] (Echoes of the Rainbow 岁月神偷, 2010; Bruce Lee My Brother 李小龙, 2010) is just okay, as is fellow Cantopop name Lin Xintong 林欣彤, making her screen debut as his wannabe-model sister.
Like 72 Tenants, the movie harks back to the days of community values, as well as celebrating Hong Kong’s bounce-back spirit. But aside from the title song, the latter isn’t over-laboured and is allowed to come naturally from the vignette-ish storyline and the finale in which the inhabitants of the Kowloon housing estate find common cause vs. the forces of multi-national big business. It’s all, of course, a dream version of the real, contemporary Hong Kong but works at a level of pure, upbeat entertainment, with genuinely engaging musical numbers and a finale that plays it just right. And especially in the pre-title sequence – which cross-cuts between various examples of modern-day frustrations – there’s an underlying acknowledgement that the city has, inevitably, moved on.
From the cleanly colourful photography of veteran Zhang Dongliang 张东亮 [Tony Cheung] (Eye in the Sky 跟踪, 2007; 72 Tenants; 14 Blades 锦衣卫, 2010) to the smooth editing, the film is top drawer on a technical side. Instead of showing NGs during the end credits, there are extra scenes with the characters, including a particularly witty one of Wu’s character getting her revenge on a manageress played by Lv Huiyi 吕慧仪.
Presented by Shaw Brothers (HK), Television Broadcasts (HK), Sil-Metropole Organisation (HK), Mei Ah Entertainment (HK). Produced by United Filmmakers Organization (HK).
Script: Zhong Shujia, Mai Xiyin [Heiward Mak], Huang Yangda. Original story: Zeng Zhiwei [Eric Tsang], Zhong Shujia, Mai Xiyin [Heiward Mak], Huang Yangda, Mo Wenhao, Chen Mengyan, Huang Haoming, Ba Shen. Photography: Zhang Dongliang [Tony Cheung]. Editing: Li Dongquan [Wenders Li], Mo Wenhao. Music: Deng Zhiwei, Yan Lihang, Zhuang Dongxin, Ye Zhaozhong. Title song: Alfonso S. Garcia, Lu Yong. Singers: Li Zhiting [Aarif Lee], Lin Xintong. Choreography: Huang Jiacheng, Zhang Lifeng. Art direction: Feng Jihui. Costumes: Zhang Fangdi. Sound: Liang Zonghou, Shi Junjian, Chen Songyin, Liang Huaiyu. Action: Huang Weihui. CG animation: Herb Garden.
Cast: Liang Jiahui [Tony Leung Ka-fai] (Wu Shun), Wu Junru [Sandra Ng] (Mrs. Ng), Zeng Zhiwei [Eric Tsang] (Zheng Ruilong/Water Dragon/Dragon Cheng), Feng Cuifan [Stanley Fung] (Wu Tong, Wu Shun’s father), Chen Fala (Li Qi/Nicky), Huang Zongze (young Wu Shun), Wang Zulan (Zheng Shuilong, in 1980s), Yuan Yongyi [Anita Yuen] (Bai Suzhen), Li Zhiting [Aarif Lee] (Wu Ming), Lin Xintong (Wu Zhi), Li Yaoxiang (Li Yaoxiang/Wayne, actor in TV drama), Zhang Keyi (actress in TV drama), Liao Qizhi [Liu Kai-chi] (Mr. Lee, in 1980s), Xu Zishan (twin 1, in 1987), Lin Xue [Lam Suet] (Du Brothers gang head), Mai Changqing (Fei Fan, housing authority official), Lu Yong (Ye Xiedeng), Wu Ma (Mr. Lee, Li Qi’s father), Ruan Zhaoxiang (twin 1), Xu Shaoxiong (Chen, stall owner), Tian Qiwen (security guard), Zhang Jianting [Alfred Cheung] (TV drama director), Wu Zhuoxi (Sam, in 1987), Shang Tian’e (Mrs. Lee, in 1987), Lu Mixue [Michelle Lo] (twin 2), Lv Huiyi (Koni), Zheng Xinyi (twin 2, in 1987), Jin Gang [King Kong] (Kang Yong), Huang Haoran (Du Brothers gang member), Shen Zhuoying (Bai Suzhen, in 1980s), Chen Yinglan (Wu Jing, Wu Shun’s younger daughter), Ao Jianian (Charlie), Miao Qiaowei (Sam), Huang Rihua (Yudan Hua/Fishball Hua/Wah), Xie Tianhua (gangleader, in 1987), Zhan Ruiwen [Jim Chim] (tuition school head), Shao Meiqi [Maggie Shiu] (shopping-mall manageress), Mai Lingling (neighbour), Tan Yaowen (Big-Mouth Hua/Wah), Xie Xuexin (neighbour, in 1980s), Gao Haining (DeDe, tuition school queen), Huang Debin (Xing, neighbour, in 1987), Xia Chunqiu (Mrs. Wu’s father), Fang Yiqi, Luo Minzhuang, Tang Yingying, Hong Tianming (neighbours), Gou Yunhui (Donell, Charlie’s assistant), Ma Sai (Babe, in 1980s), Jia Xiaochen (Xia Baoling, Miss Hong Kong 1987), Peng Jianxin, Zheng Shijun (neighbours), Chen Meishi (nurse, in 1987), Liang Zhengjue (Mei, Koni’s assistant), Bobby Yap (doctor, in 1987), Jiang Zhiguang (Chen, broker, in 1987), Guan Baohui (waitress), Ma Tilu (Lin), Cao Yonglian (neighbour), Li Nuoyi (hawker, in 1987), Deng Jianhong (fruit seller, in 1987), Wang Haoxin (neighbour), Gao Junxian, Yuan Weihao (gentlemen in period costume), Yao Ziling, Yang Xiuhui (ladies in period costume), Shao Yinyin [Susan Shaw] (Sister Mahar, beauty-clinic owner), Xue Ni (Li, granny, in 1987), Li Longji (neighbour, in 1987), Wang Qing (elder Fin), Li Pide (fruit seller), Li Feng (hawker, in 1987), Ding Yu (neighbour), Lu Zhenshun (hawker, in 1988), Jose Maria Rodrigues (neighbour), Dai Yaoming (assistant director), Lu Dawei (restaurant owner), Gu Feng (old man), Deng Yingmin (charity-show host), Liu Shaojun, Yu Fung, Zhong Zhenni (neighbours), Xiaofei (Ronald), Wang Zhi’an, Peng Huai’an (Du Brothers gang members), Xu Ying (E-Cup Baby), Huang Changxing (Richie Yi, in 1987), Weng Jia’ni (Lu Xiaoyu), Cen Jieyi, Ouyang Xiaotong (young models).
Release: Hong Kong, 3 Feb 2011.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 16 Aug 2011.)