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Chinese language cinema

Film review: Husband Killers – Stephy Tang, Chrissie Chau seek revenge in exploitative male fantasy

With beautiful scantily-clad actresses playing psychotic, jealous assassins and police, this is a throwback to Hong Kong’s cheap category III films, marred by its paper-thin characters and plot

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 3:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 3:31pm

1.5/5 stars

A revolting male fantasy disguised as a women-empowering revenge thriller, this fourth feature by former playwright and theatre director Fire Lee Ka-wing ( Robbery ) is an exploitation film so misguidedly conceived, it’s bound to leave an awful taste in the mouth for most viewers. Coincidentally released at a time when sexual predators around the world are publicly shamed, Husband Killers couldn’t appear more tone-deaf if it tried.

When professional assassins Chanel Tsui (Stephy Tang Lai-yan) and Dior Mok (Chrissie Chau Sau-na) discover that the man they’ve respectively spent the past 10 years with is the same person, the two trigger-happy ladies swiftly decide to take each other out. Then the equation changes when Tsui the wife and Mok the girlfriend learn that their man is seeing a third woman, the equally unhinged SDU officer Hermes Tong (model Gaile Lok in a rare screen outing).

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The trio converge at a run down and conspicuously empty motel, where Tong finds out that she has also been dumped for yet another girlfriend. As each woman tries to kill the other two, it transpires that they have become the prey of a sadistic rape-and-murder plan by the motel’s boss (Pauline Suen Kai-kwan) and her two adult sons, the sex-craved Big Po (Kevin Li Kin-wang) and the mentally disabled Little Po (RubberBand drummer Lai Man-wang).

There is mild amusement to be had when writer-director Lee lets Tang and Chau – both romcom fixtures who impressed in career-transforming roles earlier this year – engage in fundamentally petty arguments as freshly jilted lovers. But the paper-thin story, flooded with slow-motion sequences, is repeatedly dragged through meandering passages that neither build up tension nor shed light on characters beneath their hysterical surfaces.

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An inadvertent throwback to trashy Category III films of a bygone era, Husband Killers has its cake and tries to eat it with its contrived attempt to empower its female leads. By portraying the heroines as the bird-flipping, chain-smoking type, at once filled with vanity (see their names) and hatred (cue their inexplicable urge to kill not just men, but also other victimised women), the film manages to show independent women in the worst light possible.

When you consider the readiness with which Lee turns his camera to ogle his actresses’ bodies, so often clad in skimpy outfits, it is hard to see his spirited cast as being anything but exploited. Tang does look spectacular in a tight costume taken straight out of the Resident Evil films – but when your best fashion moment is a rip-off then the whole thing ceases to matter.

Husband Killers opens on December 7

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