Slim Til Dead
Hong Kong 2005
Directed by Marco Mak.

A serial killer abducts models and forces them to slim down to 70lbs before letting them go, the process naturally killing them. Tak (Anthony Wong) and Bull (Raymond Wong) are the cops on the case, aided by mainland photographer Tin Fuk (Wu Qing Zho) and Tak's wife Ling (Sheren Tang), obviously the brains of the operation. Cherrie (Cherrie Ying) is the fitness assistant to one of the models and the object of affection of their main suspect. SLIM TIL DEAD is quite entertaining, and benefits from a strong cast and polished directing (from Genre fave Marco Mak), and a script that allows the basic suspense thriller format to contain a savage attack on Hong Kong's obsession with beauty and weight-loss products.

The film parodies, imitates, and pays homage to a great many other Hong Kong films, as Wong Jing (who wrote, produced, and appears in SLIM TIL DEAD) has always taken pleasure in doing. One section riffs on THREE...EXTREMES, not only by dressing up one of the actors like Miriam Yeung and getting her to eat dumplings, but later having the killer demand that she entertain him while being held captive, like Park Chan-wook's "Cut". Elements from Koma and Abnormal Beauty seem to filter in as well. The overarching premise of the film -- that the relentless striving for beauty makes monsters of us all -- also follows on the theme from Fruit Chan's Dumplings.

Anthony Wong continues to be a strong performer, he is the star of the film and he keeps it from falling apart. Raymond Wong does a very good job as well as his partner. Their relationship is revealed not so much in what they say, but in how they delight in setting each other up in embarassing situations then laughing at the result. It's an extremely good-natured, warm relationship. You can see how Bull looks up to Tak despite all the ribbing in such details as the way they dress alike. Even Cherrie Ying, who I've been mostly unable to stand so far, manages to do well in a challenging role.

As for the commentary on Hong Kong people's obsession with being "slim", as this article from Time Asia Online indicates, the obsession is unhealthy, and downing so many unregulated, untested, and unproved slimming products can possibly even kill you. Chinese people, having grown up with time-tested Chinese herbal remedies that are effective even though not properly analyzed and prescribed in the "western" fashion, typically will be susceptible to the diet pills claims for efficacy to an even greater degree than western customers (and that's saying something!). The social pressures to be thin in Hong Kong are so strong, and the abuse so fierce if you are overweight, that perhaps dying from improper use of slimming pills is a risk many are willing to take. How much pressure is there? Take for example this article from the South China Morning Post following up on a recent TVB broadcast in which actress Joyce Cheng Yan-yee appeared as Snow White. TVB received over 300 complaints saying it was "disgusting" and "not suitable for children." Why? Because Joyce Chan is overweight, and therefore shouldn't play a princess. And not only that -- she actually only used to be overweight, but had lost 45kg in the past two years. But still it was not enough to satisfy the audience. SLIM TIL DEAD is timely, engaging, and so far one of the most worthwhile films to come out of Hong Kong all year.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on October 13, 2005.

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