Film review: Lost in Hong Kong – Xu Zheng charts the city’s cultural milestones in family farce

Xu directs and stars in this love letter to Hong Kong pop culture of the 1980s and ’90s

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 November, 2015, 5:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 November, 2015, 5:34pm

Less a rehash of his road-movie comedy Lost in Thailand (2012) – the highest-grossing Chinese film until this summer – than it is a full-on homage to the best of Hong Kong pop culture from the 1980s and ’90s, producer-actor-director Xu Zheng’s latest blockbuster takes a mainland perspective to the city while retaining a most conservative narrative – about staying loyal to one’s family, however noisy and unpleasant they may be – in its core.

Xu Lai (Xu) was an aspiring artist with a gorgeous girlfriend, Yang Yi (Du Juan), during his college years. But he ended up marrying the far less glamorous Cai Bo (Zhao Wei) and working for her in-laws’ brassiere business. During a family tour to Hong Kong, the now middle-aged Xu spots the perfect opportunity to reunite with his first love – that is, if his incredibly rude and intrusive brother-in-law, Cai Lala (Bao Beier), would stop stalking him with a video camera.

With that screwball comedy premise, Xu somehow turns Lost in Hong Kong into a schizophrenic mix of mildly diverting if jarringly incoherent sentiments. One minute, Xu and Cai are dodging a pair of local cops (Eric Kot Man-fai and Sam Lee Chan-sam) investigating a homicide; the next, they’re wreaking havoc on the guerrilla shoot of a fictional Wong Jing movie, which happens to look funkier than anything the filmmaker has made in a long time.

Xu’s effort to reference Hong Kong music and cinema is largely hit and miss. Its nods to memorable lines from Wong Kar-wai and John Woo classics amuse alongside action sequences efficiently choreographed by Chin Ka-lok (including one that replicates the double-decker bus stunt in Jackie Chan’s Police Story), but the film also tries too hard to stir nostalgia with its excessive use of Canto-pop tunes. The result is a curiously exotic jumble.

Lost in Hong Kong opens on November 19