Film review: Gangster Pay Day
GANGSTER PAY DAY
Starring: Anthony Wong Chau-sang, Charlene Choi Cheuk-yin, Wong Yau-nam, Ng Chi-hung, Michael Chan Wai-man, Carrie Ng Ka-lai
Director: Lee Po-cheung
Category: IIB (Cantonese)
It is not often that one walks out of a cinema feeling contented after watching a gangster movie in which a good character dies. But then, it is not often that one comes across a film such as Lee Po-cheung's Gangster Pay Day.
The closing offering at this year's Busan International Film Festival, it's a drama-romantic comedy about triads with two main subplots that seem to be at odds with each other. One of them has the triads acting like domesticated pussycats, while the other has some of them showing a more violent streak. Yet things do come together pretty well largely because many of the movie's cast are much better at being funny than their filmographies suggest.
As his Hong Kong Film Awards for best actor in The Untold Story (1993) and Beast Cops (1998) attest, Anthony Wong Chau-sang is good at portraying scary and menacing characters. But in Gangster Pay Day, he shows an endearing side as Wong Kam-kwei (Ghost in the English subtitles), a triad boss who has been on the straight and narrow for years, but still has some faithful followers, such as the young Leung (Wong Yau-nam), Uncle 2 (Michael Chan Wai-man) and Brother B (Ng Chi-hung).
Early in the film, Ghost turns down a drug deal offered by the disreputable Bill (Keung Hon-man), incurring the villain's ill will. But Ghost is far more preoccupied with the death of his mother — and is only jolted out of his moroseness through an act of kindness by Mei (Charlene Choi Cheuk-yin), a cha chaan teng owner who has just lost her father.
Although he's old enough to be her father, Ghost finds himself falling for the cute woman with a love of lollipops. Still, it's obvious to others, including Sister Pui (Carrie Ng Ka-lai), Ghost's ex-wife with whom he's still friendly, that Mei has her heart set on someone closer to her age.
There's a great scene midway through the movie that takes place in Sister Pui's flat. It works beautifully as a result of the actors and actresses displaying excellent comedic timing, line delivery and facial expressions — and also because by that point in the film, you care about their characters.
Director Lee and Lily He Xin's script may not be the most innovative out there, but it springs a few surprises. And its topical comments about property developers and nostalgia for classic cha chaan teng fare are guaranteed to resonate with, and amuse, audiences.
Perhaps the best thing about Gangster Pay Day is that it gives ample opportunity for the likes of Anthony Wong, Michael Chan, Ng Chi-hung and Carrie Ng to show their funny sides.
Gangster Pay Day opens on November 6