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  Pretty Woman Not the one with Julia Roberts
Year: 1991
Director: Yeung Chi-Gin
Stars: Veronica Yip, Alex Fong, Ken Tong, Charlie Cho Cha-Lee, Mondi Yau Yuet-Ching, Lee Yuet-Sin, Suen Kwok-Ming, Chang Siu-Yin, Wu Ma, Patrick Keung Hiu-Man, Lee Hin-Ming
Genre: Comedy, Sex, Thriller, Romance, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Far sleazier than the Julia Roberts rom-com from which it derives both name and certain aspects of its plot, Pretty Woman is a typical early Nineties Hong Kong Category III sex film. Working late one night at the office, Lo Yin Hsin (Veronica Yip) is raped and killed by creepy colleague, George (Ken Tong). Despite incinerating Hsin’s body in a burning car, George worries her absence will stir suspicion among his co-workers so hires look-alike hooker Mimin (Veronica Yip) to pose as the dead woman long enough to tender her resignation. However, when Mimin recognises handsome Lin Cha-Sin (Alex Fong) as the kung fu stud who saved her from a triad gang the night before, she decides to stay.

A corporate espionage subplot from the original Pretty Woman involving an estranged father and son becomes the main focus here with George out to discredit Lin in the eyes of his dad, the company president played, surprisingly, by veteran actor-director Wu Ma. He turned down A Chinese Ghost Story III for this?! The result is a distorted take on the Hollywood plot that re-imagines the Richard Gere character as a psychotic killer whilst the Alex Hyde-White character shoulders the rich playboy-falls-for-a-hooker arc! Explicit sex, some incongrous shoot-’em-up action (where George lures Mimin into the midst of a violent stand-off between cops and gangsters while on a business trip in Macao), and even elements from Working Girl (1988) are thrown into the mix, as Mimin proves more competent at her new corporate job than anyone suspected. Yet the film’s fantasy vision of the sex lives of upscale young Hong Kong go-getters is not too thematically different from the glossy though morally murky Hollywood fairytale.

Crass sex gags sit alongside lurid sexualised violence in typically tasteless and jarringly light-hearted Category III style. All the male office workers are characterised as sex starved clowns, desperate to catch a glimpse of ladies' underwear or cop a feel aboard a crowded elevator. Mimin’s experience as a nightclub hostess allows her to outmanoeuvre all these randy characters including her supervisor (Charlie Cho Cha-Lee) whom she first discovers being orally pleasured by a girl hidden under his desk. When he attempts to slip Mimin a date-rape drug, she switches cups which results in his seduction by closet nymphomaniac ice maiden Miss Ode (Mondi Yau Yuet-Ching) to the strains of the William Tell Overture after which he becomes her emasculated stooge. Aphrodisiacs also figure in another infamous scene wherein one of George’s girlfriends (Lee Yuet-Sin) slips one into the water tank that results in a mass orgy just when Lin brings some important clients into the office. Astonishingly, Mimin proves so resourceful she gets the staid old geezers to overlook all this brazen hanky-panky and sign the deal! Quite how she manages this is lost in translation.

Co-writer-director Yeung Chi-Gin, who directed only three films, peppers the plot with frequent time-outs for frontal nudity and steamy, saxophone-scored sex at the tennis court and in one hilarious scene at the gym on a weightlifting machine, and includes ample opportunity to ogle shapely Veronica Yip. Among the few sex stars gifted with genuine acting talent, Yip crossed over into the mainstream after her Category III roles, paving the way for the likes of Shu Qi and Loletta Lee to carve simultaneous sexy and serious film careers. While the psycho-killer plot is wrapped up rather abruptly via a knockabout kung fu fight, the actual climax - so to speak - involves a lingering, ten minute sequence where Yip strips off and soaps up in a bubble bath whilst fantasizing she is sharing a vast swimming pool with Lin. It is capped by a suprisingly affecting finale wherein Mimin’s kind, glamorous and surprisingly young madam (Chang Siu-Yin) orchestrates a happy reunion with Lin, while her fellow call girls cheer them on.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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