“Leave me Alone” is Danny Pang’s companion piece to brother Oxide’s “Ab-normal Beauty”, the two films linked by a tragic car accident which has far reaching effects on the lives of all those involved. Whilst the latter film focused on the impact of the incident on one of its witnesses, “Leave me Alone” chooses to tell the story of its consequences on the life of the man driving the car and that of his identical twin brother. Although both films are concerned with themes of identity and sexuality, and both happen to star pop singers, the two are actually very different, with Oxide Pang going the route of the dark psychological thriller, whilst his brother has produced a rather odd, yet ultimately pedestrian action comedy.
The plot begins as gay fashion designer Yiu Chun Man (Ekin Cheng, “Heroic Duo”) is visited in Hong Kong by his twin brother, Yiu Chun Kit (also Cheng). Unfortunately, after borrowing his brother’s driver’s license, Kit is involved in a car crash in which a woman dies, with Kit falling into a coma. As the police investigate, Man finds himself unable to declare his identity, and thus assumes the role of his brother. Desperate to prove his usefulness, he jumps at the chance when Kit’s girlfriend (Charlene Choi, recently in “New Police Story” and one half of pop pixie duo ‘The Twins’) begs him to go to Thailand to pose as his brother and help her sort out some money problems.
Unfortunately, Man soon finds himself involved with a psychotic loan shark and his gang of henchmen. Whilst back in Hong Kong, Kit has his hands full trying to ward off the attentions of Man’s amorous boyfriend, who just happens to be a high ranking police officer. Although this may at first sound like the plot for a bad Jean-Claude Van Damme film (the Muscles from Brussels having gone the twin route in not one, but four movies, including “Double Impact”, “Maximum Risk”, “Replicant”, and in a fashion, “Timecop”), Pang goes for a more offbeat approach, devoting as much time to the characters themselves as to the scenes of gunplay and explosions. Although a welcome move, this is not to say the film has any real psychological depth beyond a few moments of insight into Kit and Man’s lives and relationships.
The two main characters not particularly realistic or well-written, especially Man, who is a decidedly stereotypical film gay person, more concerned with cleaning and dressing well than doing anything useful. In fact, a great amount of the film’s humour is based upon Man’s homosexuality, whether it is his uselessness with guns, or his attempts to concentrate in a bathhouse when surrounded by naked men. These frequent scenes provide a rather uncomfortable counterpart to the film’s action quotient, which is based around a number of botched money and drug deals. As a result, the film has a rather schizophrenic feel, which although keeping with its central theme, leaves the viewer feeling a little lost.
The plot progression of “Leave me Alone” is predictable and weak, and many events seem to have been inserted simply to hurry things along without any thought towards pace or the generation of tension. Pang’s direction is similarly disappointing, being without any kind of innovation or flair, and falling back on a number of tired action cinema cliché, especially the over use of slow motion and seemingly bulletproof protagonists. This reduces the impact of the gunfights considerably, and apart from a brief car chase scene, the film has very little to get the adrenaline flowing. In general, Danny Pang seems quite happy to concentrate on the film’s comedic aspects, and as such the action elements come across almost as an afterthought, especially during the ridiculously over the top climax.
Fortunately, the film has an unexpected ace up its sleeve in the form of Cheng’s excellent double performance. Although neither of the twin brothers are particularly interesting or well crafted characters, the Hong Kong pop singer does manage to bring both to life, mainly through the skilful use of small gestures and details. Special effects and crafty camera work aside, Cheng truly convinces the viewer that the brothers are separate human beings, alike and different in a multitude of ways. The supporting cast are similarly effective, even Choi, who though not entirely convincing as an action heroine, does at least seem to be developing some kind of emotional range.
The credible performances of the leads give “Leave me Alone” a considerable lift, though sadly they are not enough to lift it beyond being horribly average. Ultimately, Danny Pang’s direction and the script are too depressingly dull and unambitious to make “Leave me Alone” count as anything more than reasonable, yet wholly unremarkable entertainment. Depending on the perspective of the viewer, the overall impression will either be that of a disappointing and poor Pang Brother’s film, or a great Ekin Cheng film.
Danny Pang (director) / Danny Pang (screenplay)
CAST: Kenny Bee …. Jane’s Dad
Ekin Cheng …. Yiu Chun-Man/Yiu Chun-Kit
Charlene Choi …. Jane
Jan Lamb …. Kuk Jing Chung
Chi Wah Wong …. King