Escape from Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong 2004
Directed by Simon Loui.

Mr. Raymond Mak (Jordan Chan) is a miillionaire stock broker that everyone else licks the boots of -- until suddenly, he is fired. That in itself is not bad, he's got another offer that has to be signed at the end of the day over at the competitor's brokerage house across the harbor. But on his way out, he gets mugged, and without a cent to his name must face filing a police report, getting new identity card, and finding a friend who can spot him a little cash to get across before the deal is cancelled. Only trouble is, friends are hard to find when you've been a complete bastard all your life. The only person he keeps running in to is a beat cop (Chapman To), absolutely dedicated to his job and not interested in Mak's personal problems.

ESCAPE FROM HONG KONG ISLAND must inevitably be compared to last year's MEN SUDDENLY IN BLACK. Both are exercises in frustration as the protagonist(s) focus on a single purpose, be it is crossing the harbor, here, or committing adultery in the previous film. Yet the premise is different enough to remain fresh, and in many ways, I found ESCAPE FROM HONG KONG ISLAND to be the superior film.

It's been a long time since Jordan Chan has been in a movie worth watching. He has shed his tough guy image, but putting him into romances doesn't really work, mainly because he has absolutely no chemistry with any of the women he is paired with (For a moment in Herbal Tea, I thought the lack of chemistry was intentional and he was going to come out as a homosexual, but no, he was really supposed to be falling in love. Riiight.). Straight comedy doesn't really work to well either. So what's an actor to do? Edmond Pang hit on it last year with MEN SUDDENLY IN BLACK: black comedy. Keep Jordan as the straight man and let him try to navigate chaos around him. It works.

Simon Loui, the omnipresent writer/actor in low budget horror, turned Producer, has now turned again, to directing, and his first effort is remarkably confident. He works Central in a lot of locations for all it is worth, and he manages to create a sense of feeling trapped, even though the idea seems initially absurd. This movie is a great step forward for Loui, who has been trolling around producing movie vehicles for the Cookies (now Mini-Cookies) like Nine Girls and a Ghost and FEEL 100% 3. Loui demonstrates a sense of humor about this himself, there is a great joke midway in the picture when Chan goes to donate sperm for some quick cash, he and the doctor discuss the merits of looking at pictures of the Cookies while doing so.

Finally, though all the supporting characters are entertaining and interesting in their own right, special mention must be made of Chapman To. It's a great character portrait, grounded by the script, which makes him an obstacle to Mak while at the same time keeping him an honest cop. In fact, throughout the movie, he never does anything against his code of conduct, nor does he break the rules to help anyone. He works within the confines of his job. It's a character of great integrity, while of course still being absurd as only Chapman To can be. While not the ultimate episodic comedy about a quixotic quest in Hong Kong (that would be the quest for a condom in Maniacal Night), ESCAPE FROM HONG KONG ISLAND is nevertheless a worthwhile diversion.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on March 03, 2005.

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