This sparkling New Year’s bauble from Jackie Chan
is a very sweet and comic film – and unlike anything that Chan has done
before. Whether Chan is slowly trying to move his career in another direction
or this was simply a one time wistful effort will have to be seen. If you
go into this film expecting a typical Jackie Chan action film full of wonderfully
choreographed set pieces, you will be very disappointed as the action is
minimal and almost always for comic effect. If on the other hand, you simply
are looking for an entertaining light romantic comedy this film can be
quite a treat. This is not so much due to Chan though as to his co-stars
whom Chan often gives the spotlight to.
Both Hsu Chi and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai are very
personable and a pleasure to watch in this. It is really Jackie who is
the odd man out as he goes through the film as wooden as a plank. Either
he was very bored or a bit embarrassed to be paired off with a female half
his age, but he never looks like he is having much fun. His constant pairing
off with much younger females in his films hasn’t reached the creepy Woody
Allen stage yet but it won’t be long. At least when stars like Harrison
Ford do it, they choose a mature young woman. Jackie’s choices seem to
be more towards the young giggly girly type and this makes the age difference
seem even greater.
Of course I can’t really blame him for choosing
Hsu Chi to be his love interest in this film. She sweeps through this Jackie
Chan film like a fresh April breeze. Let there be no doubt in your mind,
the title of the film is referring to Hsu Chi. She is gorgeous in this
film and the camera finds many opportunities to linger on her classic face.
Chan basically allows her to dominate the film and set the mood. Jackie
just acts like he is along for the ride.
For Hsu Chi being in a Jackie Chan film has to
feel like the final step in her re-vamp from her Category III days. It’s
like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval or playing Snow White in a
Disney film. I hope she doesn’t strictly take parts where her characters
are the epitome of chastity and purity as it seems most of her recent roles
have been. She is an incredibly attractive woman and she should allow herself
to still play characters with a bit of an edge and a sexual allure to them.
The film begins with Hsu living in a small
village on an island off of Taiwan. Her parents own a restaurant, but her
main company appears to be the dolphins that swim around the island. Hsu
states that "There is no room for romance here". One of the dolphins delivers
a bottle to her with a message inside that says, “I am waiting for you”
and contains the address of the sender. The person lives in HK and so Hsu
Chi in a flash of romantic passion boards a plane to meet her fate in HK.
It turns out that the sender of the message is
Tony Leung, but there is one minor problem with this fated love. Tony is
gay. Tony is in fact very gay and the message was intended for an ex-boyfriend.
Leung has a wonderful time with his role and turns in a comic masterpiece.
The chemistry between him and Hsu Chi is so much more enjoyable to watch
than that between her and Jackie. Fate of course has not played out its
hand and soon Hsu runs into Jackie who is a wealthy playboy. She turns
to Tony to learn how to seduce a man.
Jackie is having problems with Emil Chow, another
wealthy fellow who has been Jackie’s rival since childhood. Every now and
then Chow sends his Keystone entourage of four subordinates to rough up
Jackie. Needless to say they get their comeuppance every time. A shaven
headed Ken Lo is one of these fellows and has some sly comical moments.
None of these fight scenes are in any way serious or brutal – in fact they
are quite funny with Jackie performing some intricate clever routines.
Finally in frustration, Chow hires an outside
fighter (Bradley Allen) to beat Chan. Allen is even shorter than Chan so
Chow believes Chan’s defeat will be even more humiliating. The two of them
have two fairly lengthy one on one contests and they are quite good. For
some reason Chan has sped up the camera more so than I have ever seen him
do so before, but even so the choreography is simple yet very good. I have
no idea what the background of Allen is, but he definitely has some major
martial arts moves.
So don’t come into this film expecting Drunken
Master II or even Mr. Nice Guy in terms of the action. It is just a sweet
romantic tale that is much more Hsu Chi than it is Jackie Chan.
My rating for this film: 7.5
Reviewed by YTSL
Make no mistake: The title of this movie
refers to a specific person, and it's definitely not Jackie Chan!
On this basis alone then, one realizes that even though this Hong Kong
superstar had a major hand in this movie (apart from co-starring in it,
he is also one of its producers), it is: a) not going to be a typical
Jackie Chan vehicle (especially in the sense of everything -- plot, action,
best moments, etc. -- effectively centering on him); and b) really more
the gorgeous Hsu Chi's film.
GORGEOUS is a whimsical romantic comedy.
Its unlikely romantic pair is the clearly middle-aged Jackie Chan (playing
a Hong Kong businessman whose fortune comes from recycling paper and other
materials) and the extremely young-looking Hsu Chi (as an idealistic and
innocent -- though hardly defenseless and unmanipulative! -- Taiwanese
country girl who's barely out of high school). The movie also stars
Tony Leung Chiu Wai (as the man whose sending messages in bottles inadvertently
sends Hsu Chi from Taiwan to Hong Kong on a romantic quest) and Emil Chow
(as Jackie Chan's rival -- in love as well as business -- from childhood
and into adulthood). It additionally benefits from the appearance
of Bradley Allan (a member of Jackie Chan's Stunt Team as someone who enjoys
a good fight) and -- I am NOT kidding -- matchmaking dolphins!
Maybe it was because I really did not expect
for there to be much (quality) action in this movie, but I was wowed by
the two lengthy fights between Bradley Allan and Jackie Chan. Sure,
they were hardly bloody or gory affairs -- and in fact, are much more like
dance performances -- but the footwork and other moves of both these men
is amazing to behold. To my mind, they would not be out of place
in a martial ARTS highlights video. Jackie's training sessions (in
which Hsu Chi features!) were also impressive -- as well as fun --
It must be underscored though that this movie
is not one which would live or die by its action sequences. Neither
is it dependent on great acting (though Tony Leung Chiu Wai definitely
is no slouch in that department). On the other hand, I would wager
that how one feels about it is very much dependent on whether one succumbs
to the charms of its female lead. I also think it important to be
in a fairly playful as well as accepting mood to better appreciate this
1999 festive (Chinese New Year) season release.
Some pieces of gossip/trivia: It's been
reported that Hsu Chi was not the first choice actress for this movie.
Neither was Jackie Chan intended to be its lead. Instead, the first
choice actress had stipulated that she only would do the movie if she got
to co-star opposite its producer (Jackie Chan). He agreed but then
other commitments prevented her from making the film. At which point,
Hsu Chi came into the picture... :)
N.B. Do not neglect nor forget to watch the
out-takes at the end of this movie!
My rating for this film: 8.