Crazy N' The City (2005)
Directed by: James Yuen
Nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2006:
Awards at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards 2006:
Chris (Eason Chan) is a veteran police officer breaking in his new partner Manly (Joey Yung). Trying to teach her that obeying all guidelines to the T is not necessary in today's world will reveal his own unfinished inner conflicts as a character. Something that he must face head on when a serial killer begins roaming the streets of Wan Chai. Among the many characters in the area, mentally ill Shing (Francis Ng) wanders around in a past reality but a light comes into his life in the form of massage girl Phoebe (Meng Zhang)...
James Yuen is a veteran of screenwriter for UFO and also deservedly was part of the acclaim for Lost In Time, a fine work with focus on the ordinary men and women that was directed by Derek Yee who is now producing Yuen's latest foray into directing. A thriller/comedy/drama (again, Hong Kong cinema does as many moods as it can) definitely aimed at Hong Kong that Yuen brings an assured handling to, if not a little simplistic however.
The Wan Chai setting holds many types but seemingly no actual hard crime (aside from petty theft and the occasional flashing) and the police force has somewhat gotten over their initial full on duty over all-attitude and adopted a rather valid approach to the tedious and everyday goingons that they have to oversee. With that, the cynicism takes over and the lack of heart. Enter a fresh voice, an enthusiastic rookie. Presto, a realization of who you really are, who you want to be and who you should be takes place. It's heavy handed sentiments and not in any way complex or difficult.
But Crazy N' The City holds a definite charm as well as challenges. Eason Chan's plight still remains far too clichéd to stand out as fresh but Eason Chan in more serious acting mode is very beneficial for this production. A fitting aspect to the character of Chris who's fallen into the everyday motions but possesses a wise mind about the handling of the Wan Chai streets. James Yuen's introduction of a serial killer plot that, just like the blueprint 1A says, is the final stepping stone for Chan's journey, leading to albeit slightly rousing but also a side of the film that may be hard to reconcile with depending on the viewer.
While Yuen makes fun of thriller staples initially such as that there's action and rain wherever you go, he also falls prey to those clichés himself later! However the choice is a valid one for the movie to further but it's not without the proceedings being unexpectedly unsettling as well. Although Yuen does deserve kudos for not being exploitive and still achieving tension. The fine pairing of Eason and Joey wouldn't have been enough to take Crazy N' The City into unremarkable but affecting and solid territory however.
It's the subplot involving Francis Ng's Shing that shines mostly and shows as almost always that with Ng putting in effort, a movie can be elevated to greater heights. The portrait here of mental illness does go the same routes as the introduction of the thriller elements as it becomes tension filled because the mind of a mad man can go in all sorts of directions. As harmless and caring as Shing is, there's always the sense of a boiling point that MAY generate unpleasantness. When it's not that, the pain in Shing as he is still living in his past memories when interacting with the world is very memorably handled by Francis. It calls for the entire acting range of subtle to over the top and does not seem demeaning either. Which is a plus because Hong Kong cinema usually aren't the best at avoiding negative portrayals of the quote unquote odd characters in society.
Aside from some unnecessary spicing up of style, Yuen's direction remains suitably hands off and more of a polished point- and shoot affair which is benefiting when full concentration on acting is what the movie lives and breathes on. Joey Yung is far from a developed actress but does fit the naive, determined and at times, wise rookie while Mainland actress Meng Zhang also is a sweet presence and the sane counterpart to Ng's Shing. Their bonding is questionably underdeveloped but also leans equally towards subtle while in the end also being classically affecting. Sadly she's underused but Kara Hui is also a welcome addition to the supporting cast, playing the sister of Shing. In cameos we also see Liu Kai-Chi, Waise Lee, Chin Ka-Lok, Daichi Harashima, Henry Fong, Alex Fong and Lam Suet.
With a proper message, assured direction and good to winning performances from the cast (guess who logged the winning performance?), James Yuen's Crazy N' The City is a solid mood filled work that thankfully goes for more realism and provides a genuine Hong Kong atmosphere. While not as adept at portraying the ordinary man like Derek Yee is and being rather over the top with his end sentiments and darkness, Yuen still creates a solid movie for Hong Kong cinema. That's very much is valid and counts in a currently struggling industry.
Universe presents the film in a 1.78:1 framed aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Print is as expected clean and presents nice colour, detail and sharpness.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 track add some effective atmosphere for the darker parts of the film and dialogue is always clear. A Mandarin 2.0 Stereo dub is also included.
The English subtitles has some ropey grammar but are of high standard otherwise. Universe should think of placing the subtitles lower in the frame though. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. The trailer and a dull Photo Gallery (12 images) are the only extras.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson