Starring Jordan Chan, Ekin Cheng, Cecelia Cheung
Director Johnny To Kei-fung
The Hong Kong medical establishment in general and the hospital system in particular would seem to be ripe subjects for parody, but Help. totally misses the mark. This is director/producer Johnny To Kei-fung's first attempt at satire, and it is clear that he and co-director/writer Wai Ka-fai have misdiagnosed their subject.
The script, co-written by Wai, Yau Nai-hoi and Ben Wong, has great ideas but is full of missed opportunities. Jordan Chan as a crusading doctor is inspired casting. Ekin Cheng as a surgeon turned auto repair-technician is also brimming with potential. Cecelia Cheung as a principled medico is a bit far-fetched - the 20-year-old teen idol looks and acts far too young to be practicing medicine - but even this could have been turned to the film's advantage.
The picture begins as a spoof of ER-type television dramas, but never goes beyond making the same facile observations about lazy doctors, bossy nurses, and the money-grubbing nature of the health care industry. It's a bit shocking and mirth-inducing for the first reel, but there isn't much progress after that. One keeps hoping for the filmmakers to illuminate some larger truths about hospitals and doctors in Hong Kong, but instead we're treated to routine gags.
Comedies seem to work best when either 'crazy' people are inhabiting a sane society, or 'normal' folk are placed in a lunatic world. Help belongs to neither camp. The doctors' zaniness loses its edge when placed in a demented hospital environment and when the picture takes a more serious turn, the emotion comes across as limp.
Despite a running time of under 90 minutes, the pace and energy lag. The most intriguing moment occurs at the end, when a fascinating plot twist puts the entire film in a totally different light. But the inherent possibilities are barely realised. It's a good thing audiences can't sue for malpractice.
Help is screening on the Newports and Empire circuits