Red River Nick Cheung Ka-fai, Zhang Jingchu, Loletta Lee Lai-chen, Danny Lee Sau-yin Director: Zhang Jiarui Both offbeat and off the beaten track, this Sino-Vietnamese drama is an unromantic romance that displays the brutal and tender sides of that elusive thing called love. Underlining the maverick sensibilities of director Zhang Jiarui (When Ruoma Was 17) is his choice of casting, with three of the four leads hailing from Hong Kong but essaying distinctly non-Han Chinese roles among the visual splendour of a town on the Yunnan side of the border. A disparate trio comprising Yao tribesman Xia (Nick Cheung), Vietnamese massage parlour proprietress Shui (Loletta Lee) and Vietnamese gang boss Sha Ba (Danny Lee) is connected by the unassuming Tao (Zhang Jingchu), a mentally handicapped virgin who scrubs floors in Shui's establishment and incites a strange rivalry between the two men. The 'baby doll' cliche of a voluptuous-yet-innocent girl-woman is handled with relative restraint. More provocative is a subtle but underlying theme of how the US impacts these people's lives, from the legacy of destruction left by the Vietnam war to Hollywood's weakening of local culture. For most movie buffs, however, the chief attraction is seeing The Beast Stalker's Cheung and Zhang perform so convincingly in a scenario and milieu far removed from their previous collaboration. The open-ended conclusion leaves the door open to a sequel. Not that there appears to be much more the director can get out of the drama. But the positive response to Red River's mainland release last month assures Xia and Tao's tribulations will be anything but a river of no return.