Gorgeous (1999) Movie Review

Leave it to Jackie Chan to do a romantic comedy and not have a single kissing scene in the entire thing. (Unless you count the film’s outtakes, which play over the end credits; one of them features Chan kissing co-star Qi Shu during an underwater scene.) “Gorgeous” is a straight comedy with some action stunts in it, but for the most part everything is played for laughs.

Qi Shu stars as Bu, a Taiwanese girl and hopeless romantic. When a bottle containing a romantic message washes up on her island, she decides to follow it to its author, who lives in Hong Kong. Soon, Bu arrives at the doorstep of Albert (Tony Leung), the messenger, only to discover that he’s gay! Disappointed but still cheery, Bu stays in Hong Kong with Albert and by chance spots Chan (Jackie Chan), a womanizing playboy/corporate raider, and falls madly in love. What follows is a case of mistaken identity and a number of action sequences that goes nowhere. Hey, it’s a Jackie Chan movie, what did you expect?

“Gorgeous” showcases a more mature acting style by Jackie Chan (“The Accidental Spy”), who plays the straight man throughout much of the film; that is, he’s serious until he engages in the Buster Keaton-like fight scenes that Jackie is most known for. As with all Jackie Chan movies, the fight sequences in “Gorgeous” are elaborate and highly choreographed. Actually, if you were to take out the film’s two long fight sequences, both of which involves Chan battling a shorter westerner (Bradley James Allan), the film would run just short of 70 minutes, at the most. In a way, the fight seems superfluous, especially against the film’s comedy plotting. The movie could have done without them; and actually, it would have been much better without them in my opinion.

Qi Shu, who annoyed me to no end in “Young and Dangerous 6”, actually uses her manic personality and squeaky voice to her advantage in this romantic comedy. Her Bu is highly likeable and the character’s optimism and sense of wonder are very contagious. It’s interesting to note that Shu has gone on to play a variety of roles in her short career, and you couldn’t exactly say that she’s been playing the same part over and over. That is, she hasn’t kept the squeaky persona, and has actually shown a lot of range. Her turn in “Skyline Cruisers”, for example, is a completely different character from “Gorgeous” or “Dangerous”.

On the whole, “Gorgeous” is a funny movie, eliciting laughs from a variety of situations. Its whole mistaken identity nonsense is cleared up rather quickly, and the entire thing doesn’t drag or come across as completely unbelievable. While the romance between Chan and Shu (there’s about 20 years between them) is a little awkward at times, the two have enough charisma to make it credible. It should also be said that “Gorgeous” does not fall into a category I have come to dub Absurdist Hong Kong Cinema (take a look at “High Risk” for an example). For the most part, the movie works as a romantic comedy, and even a sometimes too stoic performance by Jackie Chan doesn’t dull the laughs.

A co-starring turn by Tony Leung (“Infernal Affairs”) as the gay Albert, on the other hand, is not always successful. Leung sometimes overshoots by doing what most people associate with “being gay.” Leung is mostly good when he’s understated, and not so good when he goes too far. Emil Chau plays Lo, Chan’s business rival, who wants to hurt Chan, but not hurt Chan, since he still considers them friends. The two have a rather odd relationship, made all the more stressed since they’re both in the same business.

“Gorgeous” is your standard Jackie Chan movie, but it’s much funnier than the standard Hong Kong comedy. There are plenty of fights and pratfalls, but Chan seems more subdued here, allowing the comedy to take precedence over his trademark Buster Keaton-inspired fight sequences. It works, and as a result “Gorgeous” is a better film than expected.

Vincent Kok (director) / Jackie Chan, Ivy Ho, Vincent Kok (screenplay)
CAST: Jackie Chan …. Chan
Qi Shu …. Bu
Tony Leung Chiu Wai …. Albert
Emil Chau …. L.W. Lo
Richie Ren …. Yi Lung

Buy Gorgeous on DVD