East Meets West

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 November, 2011, 12:00am


Starring: Karen Mok Man-wai, Eason Chan Yik-shun, Kenny Bee, Ekin Cheng Yi-kin
Director: Jeff Lau Chun-wai
Category: IIA (Cantonese)

East does not meet West in this vacuous farce. The movie's English and Chinese titles have little relationship to the silly shenanigans endured by its star-studded cast. Director-writer Jeff Lau Chun-wai implies by the Chinese moniker that this is an updating of his 1993 blockbuster The Eagle Shooting Heroes, but other than some crazy antics and the presence of Kenny Bee, the opus serves mainly as testament to the sea change in Hong Kong cinema since the last boom of the early 1990s.

For one thing, there's the diminishment in stellar wattage. Karen Mok Man-wai, Eason Chan Yik-shun and Ekin Cheng Yi-kin are major celebrities, but their big-screen stature pales beside that of Heroes' Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing and Maggie Cheung Man-yuk, to name a few of the earlier comedy's roster. More significantly, the 2011 edition excessively dilutes the unique Hong Kong sensibility that flavoured Jeff Lau's best works.

East Meets West is an example of SAR Meets PRC, the acting tasks split between Hongkongers and mainlanders and transpiring primarily in Shenzhen. The underlying message is extremely politically correct, extolling harmony and forgiveness no matter what evils have been committed in the past.

It is the script's clever but poorly developed underlying conceit that this bunch of cosmopolites consists of eight legendary celestial beings condemned to relive past struggles through a never-ending cycle of rebirths. A potentially clever twist has these immortals involved in a comeback concert for 1970s pop group The Wynners, with Kenny Bee frantically trying to get his old band mates back together again.

The premise's potential is made tedious by meandering plotting and an array of far-from-compelling superheroes. The central figure is Bee's daughter (Karen Mok, left with Bee), a goth so scarred by her dad's marriage to her former schoolmate (Huang Yi) that she dares not love. That is, till she encounters a shady mogul (Eason Chan) whose past proves even more complex than all of the above, along with a unique relationship to an even shadier woman (Stephy Tang Lai-yan).

They deliver an uneasy mixture of screwball moleitau buffoonery, sentimentality, and special effects, with a sufficient quota of luminaries to assure box office success. But the picture as a whole never really engages.

East Meets West opens today