Lan Kwai Fong Swingers (1993)

Written & directed by: Cheung Chung-Chi
Producer: Lee Seung-Fung
Starring: Charlie Cho, Lily Lee, Chang Yuk-Yue, Reno Otomo, Poon Tak-Chuen, Chui Bo-Lun & Hon Gwok-Choi

Framing its loose story around the human stampede incident of New Year's Eve in 1992 that left 20 people dead in Lan Kwai Fong, exploiting real events has never stopped Hong Kong filmmakers. The true life crime genre was booming in 1993 and even attracted the attention of awards juries. But as far as some went, no one took the notion of exploitation more poorly and more wrongly than the makers of Lan Kwai Fong Swingers.

Centering around a group of friends in and around the area of Lan Kwai Fong, conveniently (lame rather), our leading ladies are called Lan, Kwai and Fong. Going to Japanese classes, partying, doing drugs, engaging themselves in relationships dramas, suicide attempts and amateur porn filmmaking, in the bar they frequent we also find owner Henry (Charlie Cho). A bi-sexual man who confronts a priest on the street that claims something bad is going to occur in Lan Kwai Fong in a month...

Less than 6 months after the tragic event, it was exploited in the form of a cheap sex film. Not well expectedly, one time director Cheung Chung-Chi (real name or not) strings together the mere basics acting as cues for even less than basic sex scenes. Granted characters are setup as free spirits but also pretty much scum with no morals, a hyperactive sex drive and the argument that essentially lust is sealing their fates eventually on New Year's Eve is pretty bare. And bad. Especially since the selling point of erotica is not shot in any involving manner, it's at one point set to calypso music and when you're focusing on the Michael Douglas movie playing in the background during a sex scene, that seals that grade. Charlie Cho brings his trademark energy however, having no qualms about playing a sleazy, very un-sexy man and his entrance fondling a bartender from behind a counter and subsequent intercourse is one of his finest.

In a way a movie that begs to be watched because of how it exploits reality in the most barethread of ways, the actual funny and even hysterical stretches have no connection to the stampede. As these characters are constantly in need of money, a scheme is hatched to shoot a cheap porno with themselves acting as cast and crew. Although clearly not the thesis for these poolside sequences, today it plays like a sharp satire of just how cheap and quick Category III movies were made and released. Everybody and their relatives shot and got a softcore flick released at this point in time seemingly and the likes of Charlie Cho often said yes. And didn't sleepwalk through his performances amazingly enough.

Barely building up dread leading to the deadly fates of our low life characters, this is depicted through staged action but also intercut very poorly with newsreel footage showing seemingly the stampede in motion and some of the distressing aftermath. It doesn't give the movie any edge or juice as exploitation. It just leads to wild, angry disapproval. Part of Lan Kwai Fong Swingers is fascinating because of said choices, some stretches represents Charlie Cho at this most wild so if you're invested into the booming scene and inappropriate business decisions, it's worth a look. Even though you as a human will have trouble looking at the forced darkness on display.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson