Wednesday, May 12, 2010

CROSSING HENNESSY - Upstaged by Subplots

Cast: Jacky Cheung, Tang Wei, Paw Hee Ching, Andy On, Maggie Ho Yee Cheung, Danny Lee and Mimi Chu
Director: Ivy Ho
Screenplay: Ivy Ho
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Jacky Cheung and Tang Wei in CROSSING HENNESSY

PREAMBLE: With Crossing Hennessy, writer-director Ivy Ho apparently aims at accomplishing two things: tell the love story between two people on opposite sides of Hennessy Road in a 'realistic light'; and provide a touch of nostalgia to the colourful Wan Chai area of Hong Kong which is to be 'dismantled' for an 'Urban Renewal' project.

She is only partly successful on both counts. What I felt at a morning media screening of this film was mostly boredom, excerbated by a few moments of delightful comedy provided by its secondary cast. A predictable tale with an abrupt ending.

THE SKINNY: Loy (Jacky Cheung) is a 40-something bachelor who still lives with his mother (Paw Hee Ching) and works at her electrical appliance retail shop on one side of Hennessy Road of Hong Kong island. On the other side, Oi Lin (Tang Wei) works at her uncle's shop selling sanitary hardware. Loy and Oi Lin are being matched for marriage by their elders and are forced to go on a date. They do so reluctantly, as each already has someone on the side.

Oi Lin is in love with Xu (Andy On), a hot-head convicted for assaulting someone; and Loy is being wooed by his ex-girlfriend (Maggie Cheung Ho Hee) who has just divorced her husband. Are the two really meant for each other - or just two folks passing by the same road?

HITS & MISSES: In trying to present the love story in its 'realistic' and genuine light, we get mundane scenes of everyday life - inside shops, homes and rooms - with nothing inventive or creative to grab our wandering attention. And believe me, after so many of such 'nothing happens' scenes, your mind will start to wander. Jacky Cheung's performance is up to par, portraying a sleepy-head with low self-esteem and no passion for romance. Tang Wei, however, appears wooden here, quite unlike her femme fatale role in her last film, Lust, Caution. The two leads are not only devoid of screen chemistry, they are upstaged by the supporting cast and subplots.

Indeed, veterans Danny Lee, Paw Hee Ching (pictured) and Zhu Mimi provide laughs and lots of local humour with a romantic triangle subplot while Gill Mohindepaul Singh and Lowell Lo are involved in supernatural and dream sequences as a mysterious waiter and Loy's late father respectively. Ekin Cheng also makes a brief appearance, ostensibly to excite the audience.

As a swan song of sorts to Wan Chai district, Crossing Hennessy does little to evoke the history or provide insights to the famous district. Ivy Ho has written many commendable films (the 2002 July Rhapsody and 2005 Divergence spring to mind) but displays nothing outstanding or memorable as director of this sophomore effort (after Claustrophobia of 2008).

THE LOWDOWN: Mainly for diehard romantics.


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