Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie
reviews by John Charles -- associate editor / film reviewer for Video
Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.
Richard Ng Yiu-hon. Image courtesy Mega Star.
Western educated Hongkie Michael Wu (Daniel Wu Yan-zu) is in Beijing to learn Mandarin at the insistence of his rich father (Richard Ng Yiu-hon). Unfortunately, Michael can neither speak Chinese nor English very well and may now be facing jail time, thanks to an altercation in a pool hall. A struggling song writer on the verge of being fired, Michael is desperate for inspiration and an escape from the HK paparazzi dogging him and his Dad. He finds both by hooking up with a travelling rock band, led by Road (IN THE HEAT OF THE SUN's Geng Le), and goes "hole-hopping" with them across the countryside. Along the way, Michael falls in love with Road's girl, dancer Yang Yin (the ever-effervescent Hsu Chi at her most appealing), while the temperamental and unsure Road seems to be drifting away from both her and his fellow bandmates.
Daniel Wu (top), Geng Le (bottom left) and Hsu Chi (bottom right). Images courtesy Mega Star.
The husband and wife team of Alex Law Kai-yui and Mabel Cheung Yuen-ting have been responsible for some fine films, including AN AUTUMN'S TALE, PAINTED FACES, and NOW YOU SEE LOVE, NOW YOU DON'T, but this one is not in the same league. Although Law (writer / producer) and Cheung (director) incorporate CGI graphics, video, and other vogue techniques to advance the plot and characters, this does not disguise the fact that they have approached this potentially fascinating world in a very safe and conventional way. The lives of these rock gypsies are not explored nearly as thoroughly as one would like (unlike the duo's EIGHT TAELS OF GOLD, which offered a careful look at the simple existence most Mainland poor lead) and the third act tragedy is as hollow as it is obligatory. Thankfully, Geng and Hsu are able to transcend their stereotypical characters, and Michael's reserved nature is a perfect way to disguise Daniel Wu's limited range. There are also a number of wonderful Mainland locations (all beautifully photographed by Peter Pau Tak-hei) and the local rock is a treat for Westerners bored with Cantopop. Ultimately, though, this remains a picture worth seeing only for what it could have been. Hopefully, other filmmakers will someday be inspired to document this remarkable sub-culture in a more meticulous and less commercially conscious manner.
Director Mabel Cheung Yuen-ting from the "Making Of BEIJING ROCKS" documentary. Image courtesy Mega Star.
Hsu Chi. Image courtesy Mega Star.