Crime does not pay. It steals. And sometimes loses the stolen money…or doesn’t get it in the first place. This movie is crazy.
Available…online as 一個字頭的誕生, though still subtitled. Approximately 91 minutes.
Kau is 32-years-old. Formerly a gangster, he has spent the last two years selling wreaths in Hong Kong. Witnessing various funerals both large and pathetically small has made him rather melancholy regarding his own life. One day, a former acquaintance reappears. Bo, also 32, has made contact with the Black Star Gang over on Mainland China. He has been assembling a crew to pull a job for them and wants Kau to be a part of it. Kau is suspicious, not because the Hong Kongers hate the Mainland, but because Bo had ripped him off before. Bo somehow convinces Kau to come along. Bo takes him to a restaurant to meet five other men and says that the job is to steal five cars for the Black Star Gang for $1.5 million. The seven men agree to form a gang and decide to celebrate their brotherhood by going to a massage parlor.
Things start off badly, as the men do not have the $7,100 to pay for the massages. The new gang spontaneously decides to rob the place, with the other men throwing the money at Kau. They all run from the security, with Kau and Bo trailing behind. Somehow, Kau drops all of the money as one of the gangsters, Matt, hits Bo with a car that he had just stolen. So, the gang drives back to an apartment with a seriously injured Bo, no money, and a mob of angry men running after them. Bo dies in the apartment, despite their best efforts to save him. The rest of the men destroy the stolen car.
Kau and another associate build a sort of tomb/counter-top for Bo inside the apartment while the others try to clean up all of the blood. Unfortunately, they find out too late that Bo’s pager is still on his person when it goes off. Perhaps, they could have taken the tomb apart and put it back together had the men from the massage parlor not showed up and attacked them again. The six men manage to escape again.
The next day, the men take two motorboats to the Mainland, where the stolen cars are waiting for them. Unfortunately, one of the men falls off of the boat and drowns. With only five men remaining, each man has to drive a car to the Black Star hideout. Unfortunately, Kau cannot drive; he really cannot drive. So, they leave one car. Look, guys, they drive on the other side of the road on the Mainland. If he has trouble driving in Hong Kong, then it would be impossible for him on the Mainland.
Well…it turns out that Bo had ripped them off once again. The real story was that Bo owed $500,000 to the Black Star Gang and they kidnapped his wife. The cars were meant as ransom for her. None of the five men really care about her and just want the money. This almost leads to a gunfight with the gang, but the five men back down before they get slaughtered. They leave on foot, with Bo’s widow, but with no money.
The other guys decide to blame everything on Kau and start to beat on him, somehow sending them all into a muddy river. Bo’s widow finds a gun that one of them dropped and shoots into the air. They tell her that Bo died in an accident that was not their fault, but she does not care about that. She had overheard members of the Black Star Gang talking about robbing a bank and taking the money somewhere. She says that she can supply them with guns and everything else if they can steal the money from the Black Star Gang. Unfortunately, she is able only to supply them with new clothes before she is…uh…um…before she is rendered unable to give them either weapons or the actual plan of attack. So…they have to wing it.
This movie is nuts. The dialog sometimes goes so quickly that I am not sure if they were trying to paper over plot holes or if everyone was just hyper. The cinematography is dirty and the camera work is manic; one scene has the camera sway back and forth while another has a somewhat long take that is upside down. All of this seems to imply chaos and characters who dive into things headfirst without any understanding of the possible consequences. It is perfectly fine if audience members miss key details or are confused about everything; the characters are all fools and morons who have no idea what they are doing anyways.
With the exception of maybe a few scenes, the movie treats this whole thing as a joke. The characters have big ambitions, but have absolutely no abilities other than throwing violent tantrums. The idea of brotherhood among criminals is mocked. And even those more serious emotional scenes are undercut by something or other.
The movie’s treatment of Kau is kind of interesting. In a sense, he is no better or smarter than anyone else. In other words, he is an idiot. He tries to be cool and grounded, but life keeps throwing him curveballs. He can be the incompetent target of misplaced anger or put on a pedestal for absolutely no good reason. Well, maybe there is a reason. There is a spiritual train of thought running through the movie in regards to choice, fate, and identity. Every coincidence and contrived plot twist is actually the guiding (sometimes smacking) hand of the cosmos. All of this is, however, buried under so much goofiness that it is difficult for me to determine how deep one should really go in analyzing that.
Whatever; this movie is a lot of fun. Also, Kau has to eat feces at one point. I was not fond of that part.
WTF ASIA 75: The Seaside Village (South Korea: 1965, approx. 93 minutes)
On Wikipedia as The Sea Village
Available on Youtube as The Seashore Village
WTF ASIA 76: Headshot (Thailand: 2011, approx. 106 minutes)