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  Black Comedy Farty Faust farce
Year: 2014
Director: Wilson Chin
Stars: Wong Cho-Lam, Chapman To, Kimmy Tong, Chim Sui-Man, Shirley Yeung, Siu Yam-Yam, Jacqueline Chong, Bob Lam, Ku Ming-Wah, Wilson Chin, Alvina Kong, Gregory Wong, Tommy Wong, Ken Lo, Vanko Wong, Tina Shek, Dang Chi-Fung
Genre: Comedy, Trash, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Hong Kong is full of sinners. But ever since Angel Jim (Chim Sui-Man) instituted a 'forgiveness for all' policy, Heaven is full of happy, repentant souls enjoying the afterlife. Meanwhile in Hell, a seedy but empty neon-lit strip club where sexy pole-dancers gyrate for an audience of none, times are tough. With no damned souls left to harvest, Mrs. Devil (Siu Yam-Yam) tasks her horny demon son Vincent (Chapman To) with luring someone, anyone into eternal damnation, no matter what the cost. Sure enough Vincent finds his mark in Johnny Du (Wong Cho-Lam), a luckless loser HKPD detective whose dorky bowl cut is the least of his problems. Johnny dreams of becoming a member of the exclusive G4 team whose job it is to protect the city's Chief Executive (Dang Chi-Fung), but loses every chance. Especially since his superior takes credit for each case he cracks. Meanwhile Johnny's ball-busting girlfriend Angel (Kimmy Tong) browbeats him mercilessly every day. So Vincent offers Johnny the old Faust deal: three wishes, three chances to turn his life around in return for soul. What could go wrong?

At various times throughout a long and staggeringly prolific career, Hong Kong schlock writer, producer and director Wong Jing has been compared to both B-movie mogul Roger Corman and blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Uniquely he makes both cheap exploitation films and bombastic, multimillion dollar blockbusters. Yet the bedrock of Wong's career has always been his own particular brand of wacky, cheerfully vulgar Cantonese comedy and Black Comedy mines that familiar low-brow vein. This is Wong's take on the Faust story as filtered through the classic Peter Cook-Dudley Moore-Stanley Donen comedy Bedazzled (1967). Or more likely Harold Ramis' 2000 remake with Elizabeth Hurley as a sexy Satan tempting hapless dork Brendan Fraser given Wong probably has fresher memories of that version. Decades ago John Woo, in his earlier incarnation as a comedy specialist, made a loose remake of Bedazzled called To Hell with the Devil (1981) which while similarly scattershot was funnier than this limp farce.

True to form the humour in Wong's take on the supernatural fable is as subtle as a fart in the face. Which is exactly what we get in a scene where an ugly, fat demon crone lets rip right in Vincent's mug. As screenwriter Wong also serves up such choice moments as Angel strapping electrodes to Johnny's armpit hair along with a shot-for-shot rip-off of the sexy car wash Cameron Diaz performed originally in Bad Teacher (2011), crass gags about menstruation and rampant homophobia. The chief contribution of director Wilson Chin, best known for the hit sex comedy Lan Kwai Fong (2011), is an ultra-sleek, neon-lit look set amidst the trendy nightclubs of the famous party district with nubile lovelies gyrating to techno-music. While the actors, including popular comedian Chapman To, likable goofball Wong Cho-Lam and undeniably stunning beauty Kimmy Tong (who plays three different roles) mug enthusiastically, Wilson Chin (who also acts in the film portraying a character styled to resemble Korean novelty pop menace: Psy) exhibits no talent for broad comedy. The plot is a mess with two strands (cop thriller, supernatural farce) that do not gel, comic situations that prove merely manic rather than funny and misjudged moments that stick out like a sore thumb: e.g. a torture sequence involving a power drill, a running gag where each time Johnny summons Vincent the demon appears in a compromising position with a nubile beauty.

Black Comedy does not even have the conviction to stick with one derivative plot. Two thirds of the way through it stops trying to ape Bedazzled and turns into a half-assed remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941). Johnny is unexpectedly killed in a police raid on a drug den. His soul then inhabits the body of Ben (Gregory Wong), a handsome millionaire whose gold-digger girlfriend is secretly plotting to poison him. With good reason given Ben is an abusive jerk who beats her up. Funny, right? An inexplicable character shift for Angel contradicts everything we have learned for the sake of shifting gears to a love story grinding to an emotional payoff it does not earn. Along with halfhearted moralizing and a muddled mix of Christian theology with traditional Chinese beliefs, the film misunderstands its source material by presenting Vincent the demon as an almost entirely benevolent creature who only has Johnny's best interests at heart. All in all it's a near-total misfire with only a single scene, wherein an exploded bag of cocaine turns a police shootout into an impromptu dance-off with cops and gangsters, worth watching.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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