Film review: $upercapitalist

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 12:39pm

Starring: Derek Ting, Darren E. Scott, Kathy Uyen, Richard Ng Yiu-hon, Kenneth Tsang Kong, Linus Roache, Eugene Kang

Director: Simon Yin

Category: IIB (English and Cantonese)

Made on a budget (under US$1 million) that many of its characters would consider as chump change, $upercapitalist tells the story of Conner Lee. A hotshot hedge fund trader, Lee is dispatched by his Gordon Gecko-like superior (Linus Roache) to Hong Kong to work on a mega deal involving Fei & Chang, a financially troubled family-run conglomerate led by Donald Chang (Richard Ng Yiu-hon).

Upon landing in the Fragrant Harbour, the young, brash Chinese American can't help feeling like a fish out of water. And it doesn't help that he's quickly taken under the wings of Quentin Wong (Darren E. Scott), an Eurasian colleague who says things like "Out here, stealth wealth is a must" and "We drink the best, drive the best, [and] when it comes to chicks, we 'do' the best".

On a night out on the town with Quentin, Connor meets native Hongkonger Natalie Wong (Vietnamese-American actress Kathy Uyen), who's very different from the kind of women that Quentin fancies. Connor's interest in Natalie grows after he learns that her companion that evening is Richard Chang (Eugene Kang), the son of Fei & Chang's Donald.

Billed as a financial thriller, $upercapitalist seems more like a protracted melodrama about one man's discovery of what it really means to "be the man [he] was born to be" by way of adjusting the direction of his moral compass with the help of people for whom money is not everything.

While the message of this Simon Yin-helmed movie may be admirable, it's hardly new. And even though there is something endearing about the film's makers wearing their hearts openly on their proverbial sleeves, that leaves little doubt as to how $upercapitalist's story will play out.

The lack of an original plot and the distinct lack of dramatic tension are not the movie's only weak points. The dialogue, for instance, is clunky and corny at times, inducing groans. Worse, there are too many details in $upercapitalist that just don't ring true.

For example, a conversation between two brothers (played by local veteran thespians Richard Ng and Kenneth Tsang Kong) vacillates between English and Cantonese in ways that come across as being patently unnatural. It seems as though it had been written primarily to add "exotic" elements for viewers who are native English speakers, rather than help provide a genuine air of cultural authenticity to the Hong Kong part of the film.

Yvonne Teh

$upercapitalist goes on limited release at UA iSquare tomorrow