King of Comedy

Broad Outline:  Wan Tin-sau (Chow) wants nothing more than to be an actor.  He balances a fairly unsuccessful career as an extra with running a local community centre.  Offering acting lessons to anyone who asks (which includes teaching a small-time group of wannabe gangsters how to be tough), he is asked to teach a group of hostess girls how to be more schoolgirl-esque to charm the men in their club.  Among these girls is the brassy and coarse Piu-piu (Cecila Cheung) who initially rejects what she is taught, but when she decides to use one of his techniques to great success decides to try and progress further with the lessons.  Slowly, and not without some bumps on the way, the two start to fall for each other.  Meanwhile, Wan gets the attention of Sister Cuckoo (Karen Mok), an action film star who sees his real potential as an actor.  Sadly, this doesn’t quite end up as his big break, but opens the door to a finale where he is called up on to use his acting skills in a quite unexpected way.

Stephen is a Dick Level: 0/10.  This is the first leading role of Chow’s where I can honestly say he is a 100% nice guy.  He is honest and commited, and life keeps crapping on him.  Yet he just rolls with the punches and gets on with it.

Mo Lei Tau Quota:  Tough to say.  It’s probably a 7/10, unless you are versed in John Woo ‘heroic bloodshed’ movies. Because much of the comedy is based around the Woo-like movie-in-a-movie that Mok’s character is starring in.  On the whole, the film is actually fairly straight, with some signature moments (the snot-kissing scene is repulsive and hilarious) of the more wacky side of Chow’s humour.  At the same time, it takes the darkness hinted at in his previous film “God of Cookery” and give Cheung’s character quite a depressing backstory, and a really horrible scene at her club.

Sing Girl Status: I am no great fan of Cecilia Cheung normally, but this was her breakthrough role, and she’s just brilliant.  Sassy and charmless, yet adorable and charming.  “King of Comedy” is a complex piece for Chow’s cinematic CV, and the casting of Cheung is a masterstroke.  I believe she replaced Shu Qi in the role, and as much as i adore the lithe and sultry taiwanese actress, it would have probably been a lesser movie.  Karen Mok is also pretty great too, not just ass-kicking, but has a few moments of depth.

Is it Any Good?  Yes.  It’s a super film, but maybe doesn’t deliver the gag-count of the other films reviewed here so far.  That isn’t a criticism, it shows a maturing of Chow’s talents.  Maybe we can also take it as a meta-commentary of his own early experiences in acting?  The thing which might put off some viewers is the really strange genre shift in the final act, where we go from bittersweet rom-com to Hong Kong gangster shoot out. It’s all about paying off Ng Man Tat’s character who appears as a grumpy location assistant throughout the rest of the film.  I realise that the film is trying to contrast reality versus action here, but even for an experienced asian film watcher like me, it is quite an odd shift.  But that’s nothing compared to the shameless product placement for Pringles that follows it. This oddness aside, I am going to give this one Highly Recommended.  It’s a mature piece of work, and Cheung’s performance is just stunning


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