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With the success of Pang Ho Cheung’s foul mouthed and hilarious “Vulgaria” having proved that rude and crude are still popular at the Hong Kong box office, it’s only natural that other film makers would follow suit. And so, up step directors Andy Lo, Henri Wong and Chong Siu Wing with the category III rated “Hardcore Comedy”, which as its title suggests, aims for raucous pop culture laughs and unfettered bawdiness. Split into three linked stories and revolving around sex, drugs, superheroes and more, the film has a cast packed with attractive faces, including Dada Chan (“Vulgaria”), Michelle Wai (“Girl$”), Christine Kuo (“Lan Kwai Fong 2”), Kelvin Kwan (“Tales from the Dark 2”), Oscar Leung (“Young and Dangerous Reloaded”) and William Chan (“Triad”).
The film opens with Henri Wong’s “Shocking Wet Dreams”, in which a couple of college losers (Kelvin Kwan and Terence Siufay) are forced by a housing shortage at their school to move into an apartment in a brothel. Surrounded by wild and unfeasibly attractive prostitutes, not to mention a beautiful and strangely innocent neighbour (Michelle Wai), the two gradually get involved in their lives, and eventually don superhero guises to try and protect them when things get rough. Next up is Chong Siu Wing’s “Run on Drug”, which follows a recently dumped man (William Chan) who ends up agreeing to deliver psychedelic mushrooms for a transvestite drug dealer. After meeting a gorgeous client in a nightclub (Dada Chan), the two end up having a series of odd adventures around town, with romance and/or sex on the cards. Finally, in “Can’t Stop the Killing”, Andy Lo tells the tale of an unfortunate sushi chef (Oscar Leung), whose gambling addiction lands him in serious trouble with the gangs and who runs into a former flame (Christine Kuo) at the worst possible time.
It’s pretty hard to fault “Hardcore Comedy” in terms of delivering on its modest promises, and as a less intelligent or artful take on the near-poetic crudeness of “Vulgaria” it generally succeeds, at least for viewers who enjoy gutter humour and wackiness. The film certainly serves up raunchy content, with plenty of nudity, sex, perversity, drugs and other fun stuff, and while some of its weirdness feels either pointless or forced, it earns several extra points for scattergun style imagination. The gags per minute rate is impressively high, and though some inevitably fall flat or are just plain baffling, there are lots of laughs to be had, especially during the first two segments. While nowhere near up to the standard of Pang Ho Cheung’s razor sharp satire, the script is generally solid and has a few clever moments here and there – Hong Kong residents or Cantonese speakers will undoubtedly get more out of the film, with there being lots of cultural references and smutty language punning.
Of the three tales, “Shocking Wet Dreams” is arguably the best, if mainly for the basic reason that it packs in the most craziness, odd twists and scantily clad women. Though the bizarre tale of the two nerds makes little sense, it’s a bright and breezy opener, and has plenty of memorable moments of silliness. “Run on Drug” is also very enjoyable, and works nicely as a short road trip through some of Hong Kong’s stranger back streets, and though its plot is pretty flimsy, there’s enough chemistry between William Chan and the stunning Dada Chan to make it work. “Can’t Stop the Killing” isn’t quite so successful, feeling a bit too random, though it still has a fair few laughs and creative touches – by this stage, many viewers are likely to be a bit exhausted by the film’s manic energy and lack of sense.
It helps that the film as a whole has some decent production values and a kind of “Lan Kwai Fong” aesthetic, with all three directors taking a music video style approach to editing and pacing. The visuals are unsurprisingly colourful and flashy throughout, and despite having quite a low budget, the film does look suitably glossy, making the most of its attractive young cast with lots of leering camera work. At the same time though, there’s something vaguely innocent about it, and for all the sleaze and miscreant behaviour, the film is never nasty or misogynistic, something which definitely helps when treating it as a guilty pleasure.
This sums up “Hardcore Comedy” quite well, offering as it does an hour and a half of disposable fun, profanity and naughtiness that hits most of its targets and never outstays its welcome too much. It’s unfair to criticise Andy Lo, Henri Wong and Chong Siu Wing for not equalling the wit or talent of Pang Ho Cheung, and fans of low brow material should find a more than acceptable quotient of laughs.
Henri Wong, Siu-wing Chong, Yiu-fai Law (director)
CAST: Dada Chen