Saturday, January 19, 2008

Simply Actors (Hong Kong 2007)

A film centered around the acting profession and what it is to be an actor, Simply Actors seems to be suffering from bouts of misdirection in conveying it's message. There are some great and entertaining moments to be found here, but there are also some out-of-place, questionable moments as well.

After a fellow officer turns up dead, goof-ball constable Chan Man-Long (Sui-man Chim), is thrown into an acting school by his superior officers in order to be a better undercover cop. Man-Long's interest in acting and making everyone laugh at parties made him the top candidate for testing out this new method of training. Man-Long needs to infiltrate the drug lord Crazy Sam's (Chapman To), inner circle in order to bring him down. Man-Long is thrilled with this new opportunity and sense of responsibility that his bosses have deemed him worthy of and can't stand the fact that he can't even tell his wife Judy (Michelle Ye), about it. So now it's off to the performing arts academy and Man-Long couldn't possibly be more excited as he makes his way to his first class. Before he can finish introducing himself to Professor Mong and the rest of the class detailing his time spent studying drama in Italy, the doors swing open as fellow new-student and soft-core porn actress beauty Dani Dan (Charlene Choi), makes a fashionably late appearance. Man-Long and Dani hit it off instantly as Man-Long is a big fan of her "movies" and she's fascinated with Man-Long's time spent in Italy. However, he isn't the only guy in class interested in the new girl. After some training in various classes, Professor Mong tells the class that they'll be observed in order for him to select the two most capable leads for the school performance of, "Romeo and Juliet". Meanwhile, Man-Long's home life is starting to suffer because his girlfriend thinks that he isn't working as a police officer anymore and is only pursuing his dreams of being an actor.

Dani and Man-Long have a heart-to-heart discussion, in which they talk about each other's dreams, goals, and where they came from. Their talk gave them an opportunity to release a lot of repressed feelings, thus taking their relationship to another level. Man-Long's boss comes back into the picture to say that he thinks Man-Long should be ready for some undercover surveillance on Crazy Sam at his favorite Mahjong parlor. Being the nim-wit that he is, things don't go as planned and one of Man-Long's classmates, Alex (Raymond Wong), discovers his true identity in the process. As if that wasn't bad enough, Man-Long's boss gets his hands on some pirated porn movies from a warehouse raid and within the collection is Dani Dan's newest project. Little did he know that Man-Long helped her out in the filming of it, so when he recognizes his subordinate officer, he withdraws him from the performing arts school. Wallowing in his misery, Man-Long overhears the janitor (Anthony Wong...yes, that Anthony Wong) reciting lines from various plays. After the two get acquainted, our janitor friend takes Man-Long on a journey of sorts, to witness the acting taking place in everyday life. Things aren't so carefree back at the Mahjong parlor, as Brother Pang (Lam Suet) is fresh out of a Brazilian prison and looking to his oldest friend Bounce (Tin Kai-Man), Alex's dad, to collect on some money he was supposedly holding for him. So Alex goes to Man-Long for help so that they can trick Brother Pang into thinking he's got the money that Bounce had lost years ago. Man-Long and Alex recruit the rest of the gang from the drama school to get in Brother Pang's way and do the old bait-and-switch routine on the bag of money.

I know it feels like that third act with Brother Pang returning to Hong Kong for his money from Bounce came out of nowhere, and that's because it did. That in a nutshell is my biggest complaint about Simply Actors. The story completely abandoned the premise that it started with, and the sole reason for getting Man-Long to join the drama school in the first place; to bring down Crazy Sam. After the Mahjong parlor scene in which Man-Long is discovered as an undercover cop, there is no more interaction with Crazy Sam's character. What started off as a quest to bring down an evil drug lord that kills police officers, turned into a story of self-discovery with a third act that feels out of place. Also, at times it feels as if the story is just trying to find ways to add actors from Hong Kong's shallow talent-pool into the movie because Simply Actors is cameo-crazy. Story faults aside, the acting in Simply Actors is entertaining, with Siu-man Chim being the obvious highlight of the film. However, Charlene Choi shows a lot of range in her role as porn actress Dani Dan and is incredibly different from what many of us have seen her do in the past. I hate to forget Anthony Wong's role as the all-things-acting janitor. Needless to say, it was interesting, if not a bit out of place.

Simply Actors has some genuinely great moments, especially with the underlying message of a person following his or her dreams and trying to discover who they are and their purpose in life. However, these "serious" aspects are often deflected off entirely absurd and over-the-top comical moments. This mix of ingredients, while a good idea, doesn't work out as well as it could have, but is certainly more appealing than I ever expected it to be. (Lee)

Buy Simply Actors on DVD or VCD from YESASIA!

The official Simply Actors website *In Chinese

No comments: