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Chinese language cinema

Film review: House of Wolves – Ronald Cheng, Francis Ng play put-upon villains in Vincent Kok’s zany comedy

Flashes of infantile humour to conceal the often terrible storytelling at the core of this film, which is as diverting as it is forgettable. A lively supporting cast helps things along

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 3:53pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 4:29pm

There are a few good jokes, plenty of cheap laughs, and not quite enough common sense in House of Wolves. Revolving around a pair of bad guys on the verge of renouncing their villainy, this Hong Kong comedy, directed by Vincent Kok Tak-shiu – who of late has mostly turned out Lunar New Year offerings – is so messily written it makes Despicable Me look like a true-life biopic.

It’s a case of two rural boors who refuse to mature into middle age: Charlie (Francis Ng Chun-yu) is a charity fraud perpetrator who fakes physical disability and abduct puppies, whereas Bing (Ronald Cheng Chung-kei) is the village chief who obsesses over House of Cards and bribes children to sing his praises in public. Then everything changes when a Putonghua-speaking beauty walks into these bachelors’ lives.

Played by Chinese actress Jiang Shuying, who was captivating in the 2013 coming-of-age drama So Young but looks out of her depth in this slapstick farce, Jane is a mystery figure who all too easily traps Charlie and Bing into believing that one of them is going to father the baby she’s expecting. But not even a late revelation about Jane’s true motives can render this romantic triangle plausible.

Like several scattershot comedies Kok and Cheng have collaborated on since Dragon Loaded 2003, House of Wolves relies on its flashes of infantile humour to conceal the often terrible storytelling at its core. As diverting as it is forgettable, the film is complemented by a lively supporting cast, including Ella Koon Yan-na as a hideous fish vendor and Babyjohn Choi Hon-yick as Charlie’s masochistic assistant.

House of Wolves opens on January 21