Hong Kong 1996
Directed by Tsui Hark.

Leslie Cheung stars as a priest who shouldn't be doing weddings since all the brides fall for him. But he's so darn cute, he can't help it!

Officer Faat (Lau Ching-Wan) is the itchiest, scruffiest, hairiest Hong Kong cop I have ever seen. When he isn't taking off his shoes and itching his feet, he and his partner are attempting to bust up a prostitution ring, led by Dinosaur. Dinosaur is as nasty as they come, trying to make a profit by getting women in his debt, then selling them off to the Middle East.

Fa (Anita Yuen) is a makeup caked whore, just split with her unappealing boyfriend, who also left her with a huge debt. Dinosaur gets her in his sights and is determined to use her. She goes to church and ends up confessing, which is how she winds up meeting Father Hung (Leslie Cheung), a priest. The priest decides that he should save her, as a test of his faith in God and his ability to do good works. He discards his priestly robes and moves in, attempting to turn her life for the better. The cops follow his every move with suspicion, certain that he is running a brothel himself.

Such, in a nutshell, is the plot of Tristar. So what does the title have to do with anything? Why, there are three stars in the movie, of course. Tri. Star. The English title of the movie gives you some idea of the seriousness of the enterprise, which is, there is none at all. Tristar is a nice romantic comedy, where mistaken identity and misunderstandings lead to romance, comedy, and a nice, tidy conclusion. Tsui Hark directs with a light, easy style, and tries to recall his old Cinema City comedy days. This new film doesn't even come close to the manic energy of those early '80s films, but at the very least he keeps things moving along.

When Father Hung decides to help Fa, the first thing he does is move into a room in the apartment where Fa and three of her friends, all prostitutes, live. On the first day, he wakes them all up for breakfast. The scene is hilarious as none of the girls ever wake up during the day, and their shambling movements recall horror films. He serves them breakfast, and they all have immediately dressed up for 'work,' each trying to impress him more. Fa starts crying. We learn she laughs when she is sad, and cries when she is happy. Since otherwise, she would cry all the time, and what's the use of that?

Father Hung gets a loan for them and pays of their debt. He also gets them jobs at an Agfa film shop in a mall. The girls still haven't quite got the hang of a real job, though, as witnessed by how they treat their customers -- women are ignored, men get the full treatment and are talked into buying far more than they need. The priest is pleased, but there's one more thing he wants to do -- he sets them up as a band. They practice on the rooftop in one of those musical I'm-falling-in-love-with-these-happy-go-lucky-people scenes.

Now, I'm willing to suspend disbelief just as much as the next guy. And this plot is so wildly improbable it invites doing so, regardless of how far removed from reality it gets. But let's get one thing straight right now -- when getting prostitutes to clean up and start a new life, one should NOT form them into a band, so they can spend every evening in dank nasty bars, not make a lot of money, and getting drunk all the time. Slap Father Hung one up the side of the head for that one. The idiot.

Of course, this is a love story, so Fa falls for the priest. But she doesn't KNOW he's a priest. When Father Hung's cousin spills the beans, Fa is devestated. Father Hung seperates himself from the whole affair, but when Dinosaur kidnaps Fa, it's up to Father Hung and Officer Faat to save her, if they can. Like all formula romantic comedies, it ends with a wedding. How could it be any different?

The film is Tristar, so what can you expect from those stars you come to see? Well, I'm a fan of all three actors, so here's the scorecard: Leslie Cheung fans will not be disappointed. He's just such a cute, nice, priest. Anita Yuen fans may wonder where she got all that makeup. Boy, she puts it on thick. Makes her look like a prost-- oh, yeah. That's right. It's not her best role, but she's OK. Fans looking for the ultimate Leslie Cheung/Anita Yuen movie should see He's a Woman, She's a Man instead. As for Lau Ching-Wan, I never got tired of watching him scratch his feet. Though I could wish he had a more interesting role to play in the drama. A lot of the time, he just sits on the sidelines. Overall, though, Tristar is a pleasant enough way to pass 90 minutes of time.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on April 20, 2004.

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