Hong Kong Hong Kong (1983)
Directed by: Clifford Choi
Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1984:
Walking the streets of Hong Kong looking for opportunities and money, illegal immigrant Man Si Sun (Cherie Chung) is otherwise stranded in the confines of the immigrant camps. Even forced prostitution is a daily occurrence. Opportunities does present themselves however when a marriage is arranged between her and Uncle Kwai (Kwan Hoi-San). He needs a son to continue his bloodline and she needs her ID card to not feel threatened by the issue of deportation. Meeting and falling in love with boxer Kong Yuen Sang (Alex Man) also opens up the doors for Man. Doors of bliss but for how long?
Reportedly a firm believer of promoting film culture in Hong Kong, Clifford Choi may not count Snake In The Eagle's Shadow as a brilliant script on his resume but being quite a realized film for the genre after all, you should feel proud. The acclaimed Encore started his directing career and a short stint at Shaw Brother's followed with Teenage Dreamers and this, the award winning Hong Kong Kong. An early role too for Cherie Chung that didn't require her to be bubbly and cute as per other contributions she made to Shaw's. More in line with an early performance in Ann Hui's The Story Of Woo Viet, this means Clifford Choi is putting forth a story about illegal immigrants. Many similar concerns, environments and with a downbeat nature, Hong Kong Hong Kong has the sparks ready to ignite but never does more than come off as a notch or two above being just another.
The statement in the English title gets manifested in Choi's early shots, showing one side of Hong Kong being neat and clean while the other is run down. Guess where the camera continues to focus? In these shanty towns we find the center for newly arrived illegal immigrants. Most having ended up in a place that usually means they're prostitutes too. Money-issues are at the forefront, perhaps the only way of life that can be achieved, happy or not, and even one character aims to run her own bordello someday. While Choi establishes environments effectively, his script is overly apparent with its message and need to establish facts about all his concerns that it comes off quite awkwardly when placed in common dialogue. Yes, things are expensive in Hong Kong and as an illegal immigrant you're treated like dirt by your fellow men and most of Hong Kong. It's not smoothly injected but these are at any rate the matters he speaks of.
Having two story threads eventually, both of which speak of what life can be achieved or chosen. You have the safe and secure one where everyone can benefit as we see Man being setup in the marriage with Uncle Kwai. No love in this dump of a home but as money makes the world go around, Man does her best to make her surroundings akin to living. She gets infatuated with money to that damaging point even. At the other end of the spectrum, her actual romance with Kong has the aura of hope around it. His boxing career might just bear fruit and they may be able to chose a life after all. Not just being setup in one where you go in with low ambitions and settle. As he moves along in his actual story, Choi makes himself and intentions less noticeable but the fact of the matter is, the fairly busy template never gets noticed either.
The eventual outcome of Man and Kong's can be spotted from a fair distance and while being sensitive about his melodramatic choices, Clifford can't bring out the ultimate out of his and Hui Mak's script to the effective degree he so desires. The players are there for him no doubt, with Cherie Chung responding in a fairly accomplished way in her development from lowly to hopeful while Alex Man's dramatic energy is suiting for the film. But there's benchmarks in this dramatic genre if you will that means we're gravely affected by the issues and Hong Kong Hong Kong isn't one of those. A noble attempt and one that awards juries apparently love every time it's created (Mabel Cheung's The Illegal Immigrant received the Best Director Hong Kong Film Award 2 years later for instance) but I know I will be turning to The Story Of Woo Viet for my downbeat illegal immigrant fix next time.
IVL presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with anamorphic enhancement. The remastered print is totally clean, sufficiently sharp and although appear faded at points, overall the presentation fares well in crucial departments. The old time Shaw Brother's logo has been cropped and crudely inserted before the movie.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track suffers from no apparent problems. A Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 selection is also available.
The English subtitles exhibits very few errors and read very well. Traditional Chinese subtitles are also included.
Standard extras-package from IVL/Celestial turns up, starting with newly created trailers for Hong Kong Kong, The Twin Bracelets, Maybe It's Love and Teenage Dreamers. Sadly no original trailer appear. Movie Information-section contains a Photo Gallery with sub-sections named "Behind The Scenes" (4 images accompanied by text) and "Movie Stills" (10 images). Furthermore we get an image of the original poster, production notes that as per usual holds the synopsis and finishing is Biography & Selected Filmography with basic bios of Cherie Chung, Alex Man, Lo Lieh, Kwan Hoi-San and Clifford Choi.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson