Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate
editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author
of The Hong Kong Filmography.
A year after his wonderfully offbeat JIANG HU: THE TRIAD ZONE, director Dante Lam Chiu-yin returns to the genre with this somewhat more conventional effort that never quite jells but remains enjoyable on its own terms.
Nick Cheung Kar-fai (left) and Samuel Pang King-chi (right). Image courtesy Universe.
Small potato triads Dan (Nick Cheung Kar-fai, sporting beatnik-style hair and beard) and King (Samuel Pang King-chi, from Lams HIT TEAM) cheat their boss, Kwan (Joe Lee Yiu-ming, also from HIT TEAM), out of HK$200,000 in collection money. Deciding that laying low in the Mainland would be far too dull, the pair hop on a plane to Phuket for a little fun in the sun. Their Thailand vacation adventure quickly turns sour when the local hoods cheat them out of their cash. Things look up, however, when they encounter a pair of beauties: a deaf mute tattoo artist / hitwoman (Wu An-ya), who wins King's heart, and Ching (Ruby Wong Cheuk-ling), a thrill seeker who is clearly too much for the cowardly Dan to handle. Kwan sends kickboxing champ Tai (Ken Lo Wai-kwong) after the thieves but Dan and King are able to convince him not to take them back to HK.
Ken Lo Wai-kwong (left) and Nick Cheung (right). Image courtesy Universe.
A way out of their predicament arrives in the form of Ray (Anthony Wong Chau-sang), a rival crimelord, who is Ching's old boyfriend. Dan promises Kwan that he will kill Ray; in exchange, he and King will be absolved of their crime and allowed to live another day. Shortly thereafter, Dan discovers that Ching is in league with Ray's wife to relieve him of his millions and decides to get in on the action by blackmailing the former. This could be a little tricky, though, because Dan also owes Ray money and the lovelorn dai lo requests Dan's help so that he can win back Ching's heart.
Ruby Wong Cheuk-ling. Image courtesy Universe.
The storyline tries so hard to be non-linear and intentionally contrived that when the various plot threads finally must merge to create some kind of resolution, it is like mismatching puzzle pieces being crammed together. Some gags are surreal and inventive (like Dan and King's encounter with some black market organ dealers operating out of a spooky, Jack O'Lantern-shaped bar), while others could have been scooped up from the bottom of Wong Jing's reject pile. In general, the movie's eccentricities are usually quite inviting, and Ruby Wong (who either chooses her roles very carefully or is not getting nearly as much as work as she deserves) and Anthony Wong are both terrific. While a little more laidback than usual, Nick Cheung essentially gives his usual performance and any number of HK leading men could have done just as well or better by the role. A bigger drawback is the translation, which mangles much of the dialogue and clearly compromises many of the verbal jests (there is also some dialogue under the end crawl that is not translated at all). Enough of it still comes across to make RUNAWAY worth catching and, besides, how often do you get to see a movie where almost all of the principals do their own bungee jumping?
Wu An-ya. Image courtesy Universe.
Anthony Wong Chau-sang from the "Making Of ..." featurette. Image courtesy Universe.