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Chinese language cinema

Film review: The Menu – media ethics reconsidered in digital-age newsroom drama

Set in January 2015, this movie spin-off from the popular HKTV series uses a hostage crisis at a TV station to examine how hit rates and clickbait have transformed the news business

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 4:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 4:03pm

3.5/5 stars

The fast-evolving ecosystem of Hong Kong’s cutthroat media industry receives an alternately idealistic and unflattering portrait in The Menu, a movie spin-off from HKTV’s 2015 series of the same name. Again directed by Ben Fong Chun-wah, the tightly paced newsroom drama ponders the moral pitfalls of digital journalism, while channelling its disgust for social injustices in a hostage thriller scenario not unlike Jodie Foster’s Money Monster .

Set on an eventful day for the local print and TV media, the film reunites the local news team at the fictional free newspaper Smart Post – among them interim chief editor Fang Ying (Catherine Chau Ka-yee), reporter Fai (Gregory Wong Chung-yiu) and photojournalist Yan (Kate Yeung Kei) – as they continue to walk the fine line between beating rival papers to scoops and securing sensationalist content for clickbait.

The case in question revolves around TV station gaffer Tam Yiu-chi (Ng Man-tat), who is aggrieved by the acquittal of his daughter’s rapist and murderer on the grounds of double jeopardy. When Tam hijacks a TV studio and threatens to blow it up unless the Chief Executive intervenes to restore justice, the ensuing media storm serves as a cogent reminder of basic journalistic ethics – in an era when hit rates seemingly overshadow everything else.

While The Menu’s conscience-versus-unscrupulousness dichotomy feels overly simplified, and the investigation at times too condensed to be realistic, it is also enjoyably adept in depicting the zeitgeist. The film’s brazen proposition of how digital press and social media could spawn a social movement hits home hard in these post-Occupy times. It makes perfect sense for the story to be set in January 2015.

The Menu opens on Aug 4

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