Home At Hong Kong (1983)
Directed by: Ging Hoi Lam
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Alan (Andy Lau) is looking for even the slightest chance to go on the career path and prosper. He begins selling cosmetics but that venture quickly derails and he turns to liquor one night to forget about his troubles. In the same bar is Erica (Goo Ga-Lau) who is not in the same class as Alan but equally down for unsaid reasons. They end up in bed together and she lands him a respectable job at an investment company, all while she shows off the young boy in her fancy circles. Not pleased but continuing his career path, Alan discovers illegal immigrant Tin (Jue Hoi Ling) in his trunk one night and this sets him on a different path in life...
Ging Hoi Lam is one of those Hong Kong cinema profiles that seemingly never got his due or never made enough of a mark to deserve it. Based on his second and last feature here (1*), there's intelligent train of thoughts throughout that then and now should hit home at Hong Kong. Not totally unlike a Ann Hui-esque work from this era (2*), Ging connects very closely to the English title of the film, working from Chan Man Gwai's (3*) breakdown of what it means to prosper.
There are well-conveyed concerns at hand, dealt with relatively skillful subtlety but it can be argued it's a bit distanced to be truly riveting. There are many worthwhile facets to the entire character gallery of the film. however. Andy Lau's Alan we meet at an extreme low but he stumbles onto the shady corporate world of Hong Kong, while being a young boy toy for Goo Ga-Lau's (4*) Erica as well. Alan like many Hong Kong people of the film grabs a chance and tries to display a quiet dignity towards it all. It's as much arrogance in him as in for the highlighted building constructors or the quote unquote real Hong Kong people after all. His views of immigrants is also narrow-minded as he considers the actual citizens should build the land, not fleeing outside influences. Erica resides in higher class, almost desiring to end up in decadent worlds and it's hard to come to terms with a depressed character like that. But this is the dark, valid aura to Home At Hong Kong.
Director Ging talks about keeping a moral throughline as awfully difficult approaching 1997, a rare good thing that doesn't always gets awarded in the same way. You're caught in a cycle either way where you accept taking on poor morals and cheating ways or in the case of Lau's Alan, the arrogant boy has a difficult awakening when Tin enters the frame. Clearly the comfortable choice is to stay with the investment company and mistress Erica but the complex, correct choice would have to be clearing the freedom threshold for Tin, even if it means sacrificing your own. Other similar threads highlighted, using the aspects of prospering, is the subplot between Fei (Newton Lai) and Hung (Isabella Kau). He's a kickboxer that has his dreams all set and calculated while her singing career threatens to disrupt their uncertain future in favour of a certain one with a wealthy man. The songs performed by the character are telling and ironic for the subject matter and connects the themes of the film well.
A bit too episodic, heavy handed and sloppy however at times, director Ging still has quite a good grasp of his material and presents it both in an unflinching and straight way. This makes sense and offers up a challenge but mostly he lets the drama settle down into merely interesting territory. In select scenes the script also dictates too much which turns certain scenarios into illogical ones where we're just supposed to assume Alan has sunken quite low into Erica's world.
Hinging a lot on young Andy Lau proves to be a fairly successful venture though. Not overly expressive but with a certain star presence already, Lau takes the dignity/arrogance turned righteousness and embodies it adequately, sharing decent chemistry Jue Hoi Ling especially. It's the sweet, dangerous and potentially downbeat nature to the written arcs of these that best showcases the intentions of Home At Hong Kong. Ku Feng brings the expected veteran chops to the eccentric old building caretaker.
A bit overdone and told it may be towards the end in addition to not being overly special in the long run but Ging Hoi Lam provides a respectable work for the local audience with the same financial and future concerns probably evident at the time. Ging communicates with an intelligence and clarity but can't evoke the ultimate of feelings. Which is not a slam but a drama that is merely interesting, isn't a classic one. Deserves respect however.
Deltamac presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 approximately. Speckles can be seen fairly frequently, discolouration is evident but blacks and sharpness registers as decent for a non-remastered print.
The Cantonese (with a little Mandarin and English featured at points) Dolby Digital 2.0 track presents no obvious detractions. A Mandarin 2.0 dub is also included.
Most of the time the English subtitles offers up an error free and coherent translation with very few grammar missteps. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available. There are no extras.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) Debut movie was The Pure And The Evil, a drama produced at Shaw Brother's.
(2) Plot concerns immigrants, also featured in Hui's The Story Of Woo Viet and Boat People. The latter also had Andy Lau in one of the roles.
(3) Chan's writing credits includes Sketch, which is otherwise bad guy actor Wong Ching's only film as director, and Yellow Peril.
(4) Apparently of Euro asian descent, she is also sometimes credited as Caroll Gordon and after her brief acting career would dabble in costume design, including for Jackie Chan in Armour of God II - Operation Condor.