Musical Singer
Hong Kong 1985
Directed by Dennis Yu.

The well known composer and actor James Wong stars as, well, James Wong, a manager of new musical talent. When his protege Jeannie Fong (Anita Mui) leaves him for the big time, he angrily resolves to find someone better to beat her. He finds backup dancer Russell (Russell Wong), and decides he'll make the perfect new star. Russell has his own problems, though, including his father (Roy Chiao), a notorious gangster, and his girlfriend's family, who are all stark raving mad. There is more to the story, of course, but a lot of it is drowned out by the loud 80s fashions on display -- big hair, sweatbands, leotards -- and oh, the synthesizer. Play, synthesizer, play!

Almost all directors have at least one skeleton in their closets, and for Dennis Yu, pioneer Hong Kong New Wave director, this is it. Moving away from his action/horror strengths, he tried to make a mainstream film for Cinema City, and the results are disasterous. Still, the film is somewhat more engaging these days because of how terribly dated it feels. It's sort of like watching the bootleg STAR WARS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL and realizing the best bits are all the vintage commercials that were left in the recording.

And then there's Russell Wong. Now, Michael Wong has somehow made a career out of being the eurasian guy who speaks terrible cantonese and can hardly act in Hong Kong movies for over twenty years. Thank goodness his older brother Russell didn't have the same success -- the Hong Kong film industry surely wouldn't have survived the two of them. Happily Russell went on to have something of a career in Hollywood, though it has been a long and slow build -- demonstrating perfectly the difference in opportunity presented to Asian-Americans in the two movie production centers. Still, it is somewhat refreshing to find that, even though MUSICAL SINGER seems tailor made to make Russell Wong a heartthrob, an actor, and a musician, audiences didn't take the bait and ran him out of town on a rail instead.

MUSICAL SINGER was available on VCD from Deltamac, unfortunately it has now gone out of print.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on October 14, 2006.

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