Unsavoury mix leaves nothing but a bad taste

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 October, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 October, 1993, 12:00am

Cheese N Ham, with Eric Tsang Chi-wai, Dicky Cheung Wai-kin, Joey Wong Jo-yin, and Ng Mang-tat. Directed by Blackie Or Sau-leung. On Newport circuit. Executioners, with Anita Mui Yim-fong, Michelle Yeoh (Yeung Chi-king), Maggie Cheung Man-yuk, Damian Lau Chung-yan, Anthony Wong Chau-sang, and Takeshi Kaneshiro (Kam Sing Mo). Directed by Johnny To Kei-fung and Ching Siu-tung. On Empire circuit.

IF Kosher laws pertained to celluloid, Cheese N Ham would be branded cinematic trayf. Even in a season of sleazy, cheap comedies, this unfunny farce stands out as especially rancid. What makes the concoction even more odoriferous is that the scriptwriters ''borrowed'' (without attribution, of course) their premise from a clever Chinese novel that itself was the basis of one of the most outstanding mainland Chinese movies produced in recent times.

On second thought, the original idea is so cheapened by Cheese N Ham that it's just as well the film-makers fail to credit their source. Cheese (Dicky Cheung) and Ham (the usually hilarious Eric Tsang) are a pair of ex-cons who set up a company specialising in doing other people's dirty work. Their jobs include slapping a shrewish girlfriend and, in a particularly homophobic sequence, masquerading as gays. If these situations don't sound amusing, it's because they aren't.

The bulk of the story concerns the bumbling efforts by Ham and Cheese to murder a pretty heiress (Joey Wong) for a fee of $10 million. Cheese disguises himself as a school boy; Ham poses as a little girl. While the sight of roly-poly 40-year-old Eric Tsang as a pre-teenage lass garners a few chuckles, the antics are so cheap that any laughs quickly turn into groans. At one point, the ''girlish'' Ham sneaks into bed with Joey and proceeds to force himself on her - only to discover that his sex object is none other than Joey's bewigged (male) bodyguard (Ng Mang-tat).

A veritable laugh riot! The film-makers are evidently also ignorant about the anti-youth smoking campaign. Most of the film's ''jokes'' concern Cheese's efforts to smoke without attracting the heiress's attention - a comic predicament that's not funny thefirst time and certainly doesn't improve after the 10th repetition.

FROM the title, one would never guess that Executioners is a sequel to The Heroic Trio. But this nonsensical ''futuristic'' adventure drama is precisely that, leading one to speculate that the people in charge are trying to distance themselves as much as possible from the stylish-but-empty box office flop of last December. Anita, Michelle, and Maggie are back as a trio of cartoon-like super heroes in search of a decent script and halfway plausible characterisations.

They find neither, and the result is even more ludicrous than the ''original''. For a futuristic story the milieu is extremely old-fashioned - the kind of post-nuclear holocaust setting that was popular in 1950s sci-fi pictures. The world, or at least thefew sets on which Executioners takes place, is commanded by the Clean Water Corporation and its heavies. It is up to the heroic trio to secure the water source and, thus, save humanity. One isn't expecting Shakespeare, of course, but the scriptwriters might have thought up ways to relieve the tedium. An exciting, fast-paced action film, for instance; or a totally camped-up live action cartoon.

Instead, we're provided with an untenable plot so lacking in humour, suspense, and action that the production ultimately has less substance than the water for which the heroines search. The monotony is further compounded by the inclusion of five. And thenthere's director Johnny To's trademark: an obnoxious child (Anita's daughter) who is supposed to reduce the viewer to tears. But her incessant whining is enough to drive anyone to murder. Towards the end of the film, one of the trio is ''tragically'' killed. Far from feeling sad, one breathes a sigh of relief that another sequel is out of the question. Unless, that is, they to go with The Heroic Duo.