Key To Fortune (1992)

Written & directed by: Otto Chan
Producer: Jimmy Law
Starring: James Wong, Cheng Wai-Ga, Cindy Yip, Chan Kin-Yat, Raymond Si & Ng Siu-Bo


Famous lyricist, composer, actor and co-host of this fake documentary about the sex trade and flirting, the late James Wong often collaborated with Otto Chan (aka Norman Chan) before the latter found a dark streak making hugely effective and violent Category III thrillers (Diary Of A Serial Killer, Gates Of Hell). But not with James Wong. For Key To Fortune, it's effectively made but lacking in focus and certainly not able to maintain feature length momentum.

Along with Cheng Gai-Wa, in synch sound James presents us with the image of Hong Kong as a booming place for sex trade. Whether it's working on the street, in clubs or as a 'private whore', it paints an image of the possibility to make quick money rather than show patience and getting paid well over time doing a 9 to 5 job. If you had no image of Hong Kong beyond the surface, Key To Fortune might present glimpses of a reality the citizens have access to because it doesn't take a comedic angle to all of its content. At the same time, Otto Chan isn't communicating very well what it is he wants as the staged documentary style begins to take shape.

Although certain street shots with blurred faces appear to be real, most are clearly staged interviews and hidden camera encounters using actors. The illusion tends to be strong with handheld imagery, visible crew and concealed cameras of low quality adding grit and realism to often grungy settings. Interview topics about sexual encounters with clients leads to a number of humorous re-enactments starring Cindy Yip and other actresses dealing with men getting off on spanking, peeing, getting introduced to alternate techniques when a girl is on her period and Thai body massages. Chan's strongest skills is showcased here, fitting well into this era of light but adult entertainment and the rude, comedic hook for the scenes often amuses.

Key To Fortune ticks off its plethora of topics within topics well for at least the first half but the extended adventures of the gigolo Johnny, his various schemes to woo women and forcing them into prostitution as well as stealing their money (the movie does not endorse this behaviour) is a switch into the darker aspects that is needed, welcome but momentum starts to dwindle as Chan can't argue for the movie to be a feature length exercise. Stylistically there's still convincing and even uncomfortable glimpses into sex trade but seeing as Key To Fortune jumps back into a lighter tone post all this, it becomes increasingly hard to decipher Chan (who appears himself) and his intentions.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson