Six Strong Guys
Hong Kong 2004
Directed by Barbara Wong.

Less than two years after Leslie Cheung jumped to his death from a balcony of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, I thought initially it may be in bad taste to begin a comedy with four stars contemplating a similar suicide. But the story progresses, and at the end, they wonder what the hell they were thinking. "We were drunk," says one. And their problems seemed insurmountable. The message is a good one, and a true one. Perhaps what was really in bad taste was Leslie's suicide, choosing to end his life without regard to the people who loved him.

The titular SIX STRONG GUYS are George Lam, Ekin Cheng, Hacken Lee, Andy Hui, Chapman To, and Shaun Tam, but their interconnecting stories to not balance very well. Of them all, perhaps Chapman To gets the longest screen time to tell his story, of being out of work and miserable while his wife works late and climbs the corporate ladder. After his suicide attempt, he contemplates an affair with his childhood sweetheart (Karena Lam), who is now divorced and operates a bakery. Shaun Tam has the least time, a computer geek who wants to end his life when he loses all his virtual treasure in an online game. This is all we ever really get to know about him.

The most interesting story could have been the one shared by George Lam and Ekin Cheng. Lam plays Cheng's merciless boss, who drives Cheng to suicide. But it turns out Lam himself is cruelly abused (psychologically) by his boss, who his also his father in law. The story seems to get short shrift, but on the other hand, when it is on, it isn't very funny. Ekin is completely wasted in his forgettable role.

Which leaves Andy Hui and Hacken Lee, who have the best parts of SIX STRONG GUYS. Andy Hui plays a gigilo who is suddenly told by one of his old girlfriends he has a son, and suddenly cannot get it up any longer. He tries to go back and search through his old girlfriends to find who the mysterious caller might be. Hacken Lee, meanwhile, is a hairdresser with a plain, dull girlfriend who serves him dutifully (played with simple charm by Candy Lo). He keeps practicing breaking up with her, but in her face ultimately does not wish to hurt her feelings. One of the best moments in the movie is when he gathers the guys to his house with a plan to be complete pigs so she'll leave him, only to find that they all succumb to her simple charms as well.

SIX STRONG GUYS is sort of a 20:30:40 for men. In many ways, it is more successful, especially because the stories of SIX STRONG GUYS actually inter-relate, instead of simply sharing some of the same space as in Sylvia Chang's movie. But despite occasional successful moments of humor (such as Andy Hui's attempted masturbation scene) and pathos (mainly in Chapman To), the movie is too mild and uneventful to be remembered long. It's not funny enough, not tragic enough, not dramatic enough; and there are too many stories, none of them long enough to become involved in to any great extent.

It seems 2004 is the year for dusting off seventies and eighties comedy stars and getting them in front of the cameras again (See Michael Hui in Three of a Kind for another example). But I couldn't give George Lam a pass on nostalgia alone. He was, for the most part, simply not funny. He'll need to try better than that before I say I'm glad to see him back in movies again.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on January 30, 2005.

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