Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film
reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong
Maggie Cheung Man-yuk. Image courtesy Deltamac.
After their memorable pairing in Peter Chan Ho-sun's superb COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY, Maggie Cheung Man-yuk and Leon Lai Ming were re-teamed for this far less noteworthy romantic comedy / drama, which was shot on location in San Francisco last spring. Cab driver Ellen (Cheung) is a single mom trying to make a living and raise her ten year old son, Scott (Scott Leong). One evening, a friend begs Ellen to come to a bar and cheer her up. When Ellen arrives, the woman is nowhere to be found but she instead encounters handsome dot.com wiz Mike (Lai) and the two spend a sensual but less than comfortable night together in her hack.
Leon Lai Ming and Maggie Cheung. Image courtesy Deltamac.
The next encounter is in his much more inviting loft apartment but things temporarily go sour when Mike's ego will not allow him to accept an act of generosity on her part. Meanwhile, Mike's harried cousin (Eric Kot Man-fai) is desperately trying to track him down to get his approval for a multi-billion dollar takeover deal of their company. While his relationship with Ellen is now starting to blossom, Mike's business dealings are jeopardized by his stubbornness and the stress caused by the subsequent financial problems inevitably leads to discord.
Eric Kot Man-fai and Leon Lai. Image courtesy Deltamac.
Casting Maggie Cheung as a cab driver and Leon Lai as a computer genius is a serious stretch in credibility right off the bat but this is merely the first of many implausibilities in a script hopelessly bogged down by artifice and banality (the events of the final twenty minutes are simply unforgivable). With such attractive leads, beautiful locations, and dazzling cinematography (courtesy of director Andrew Lau Wai-keung), SAUSALITO cannot help but be diverting on a rudimentary level. Unfortunately, all of this eye candy fails to hide just how superficial it is and Lai's routine performance is certainly no help (and neither is his unlikeable and immature character). Cheung is able to breathe considerable life into the proceedings by actually doing very little (she communicates an incredible array of thoughts and feelings in her close-ups) and when the focus switches from her to Lai a third of the way through, the movie's interest level declines considerably. Richard Ng Yiu-hon is largely able to transcend his stereotypical role as Mike's gay landlord (will any of us live to see the day when HK cinema finally matures to the point where its homosexual characters are more than just mincing, self-deprecating embarrassments?) but Suki Kwan Sau-mei and Valerie Chow Kar-ling (as a corporate exec with designs on Mike) are wasted in secondary roles.
Leon Lai and Richard Ng Yiu-hon. Image courtesy Deltamac.
Maggie Cheung and Scott Leung. Image courtesy Deltamac.