My Kung Fu Sweetheart


Sometimes it feels like all is right in the world when I come upon a new Wong Jing film that is filled with his typical mix of jibberish nonsense, frantic action and quaint rip offs. They may not be groundbreaking but at least they are there. It’s kind of like coming home late after school and finding mom waiting for you – with a paddle. Sure it might not be pleasant, but at least mom is home and there is a certain sense of security in that. The Hong Kong film industry collapses, global warming accelerates at light speed, terrorists spread chaos around the world and the U.S.A. goes to war for reasons that no one can pretend to justify anymore, but through it all Wong Jing regularly churns out his formulaic films and for that I give him a big golden thumbs up. Thank you Wong Jing for never giving up. Now if he could just make a good film again . . . but you can’t have everything.
What’s even nicer is that Cecilia Cheung shows up for this film. It feels almost as if she is slumming. One day she is working for Chan Kaige and soon afterwards for Wong Jing. How very Hong Kong. While certain actors such as Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung have decided to become very selective in their film choices, Cecilia is still willing to go anywhere for the love of her craft and a paycheck. The mystery is where is that money going. Certainly not into food bills. Every time she appeared on screen in this all I could think of was how much I would love to force feed her a few McDonalds Whoppers and fries – extra large. And then keep her out of the bathroom for a while. She is so thin that she only shows up in profile now – from straight on her face practically vanishes. Still it’s always a joy to see Cecilia – at least when I can.
Now if only her co-star in the film could vanish. I have wondered why Leo Ku disappeared off the big screen after a couple solid films in the late 1990’s – “Task Force” and “When I Look Upon the Stars” – and now I know. He has the charisma of a blunted thumbtack. Stick him with a sharp one and I am not even sure he would react to it. Wong Jing does make one brilliant casting decision though as he picks two old time martial artists out of near obscurity and makes them a kung fu feuding married couple. Who else but the sparkling mind of Wong Jing would have thought to use Yuen Wah and Yuen Qiu in such an original manner. I hope Stephen Chow takes notice and uses them in his next film. Oh wait, he already did? I hope he gave Wong Jing the credit he deserved for this.
One night when Phoenix is around twelve years old she discovers that her parents (Yuen and Yuen) are kung fu masters after they defeat an attack from two shape shifting evildoers who can take on the forms of a cat and a snake. This is as cool as finding out your dad once played for the Boston Red Sox and so a thrilled Phoenix wants to become a kung fu kid. Thus mom and dad pack up and fly her ninja like to a special summer camp for martial arts training where Phoenix meets the principal of the camp (Wong Yat Fei) as well as the surly Rouge, another young woman in training who is destined to be her rival in love.
Years later and after much training, Phoenix (now a pencil thin Cecilia Cheung) has risen to the masterly rank of office lady in a large corporation where she fetches coffee for her bosses. Things haven’t gone so well for her parents either, as they have split up with mom giving up kung fu for the lucrative real estate business and dad becoming an OOOP at the zoo. For those not in the know, this is the guy who charges you for toilet paper at public toilets – one of the crazier and more annoying things I have come across in my trips through Asia as they hand over a sheet at a time like a secret family recipe.
The action soon kicks in though and there is plenty of it. When she was a child, the camp principal had told Phoenix that her love destiny would be “a man who can see her when she can’t be seen”. I had fully expected this to be a peeping tom, but instead it turns out to be Dragon (Leo), a rather dull yuppie cost cutter in her corporation. After he witnesses a mass murder he becomes the next target and Phoenix feels the need to protect him. The deadly killers are employed by a former student of the kung fu school who broke away and took with him the “Nine Negatives” that if understood would make his martial arts skills enormous. Fortunately, the text is in English and no one can decipher it. The bad guy goes by the name of White Eyebrows (Ma Shu Chao) and his intention is to become the richest man in Hong Kong. But then isn't that everyone's intention in Hong Kong?
To do this he needs to kill Dragon’s boss (Hui Siu-hung) and take over his corporation. And it just so happens that the boss's wife was the former wife of White Eyebrows and his stepdaughter is in fact Rouge, the daughter of White Eyebrows. Now White Eyebrows tells his former wife that he will kill his own daughter if she doesn't kill her present husband and kill Dragon too - but Rouge thinks Dragon is also her "love destiny" because his bottom got pierced by an arrow and she wants to save him. Got that? It's such a complex story line that you really need a degree in metaphysics to follow it. From this point on there is basically a chaotic mix of action and silly humor – some of the action is not bad in truth (especially an enjoyable kung fu catfight in the lady's room) – as the good guys battle the bad guys in wire enhanced kung fu aerial fights. And let’s not forget a Giant condor that is Phoenix’s pet (in intended obvious fashion a fellow dressed in a big scruffy bird costume) who prefers watching scantily clad females on TV and in magazines but is good for the occasional free air travel. There is nothing here that we haven’t seen many times before, but there is a certain comfort in familiarity and this has plenty of that. On the whole this is sort of mid-level Wong Jing – miles from his many older classics but a definite step up from his many bland comedic offerings of late. Showing up for the party as well is Wong Jing himself and Lam Suet.

My rating for this film: 6.0


Other "View from the Brooklyn Bridge" Film Raters:

Michael: 7.0
Steve: 7.0