“Slim Til Dead” is the latest effort from the ever ubiquitous Wong Jing, the infamous producer/director/writer blamed by many for the current Hong Kong cinema slump, and who is the very personification of quantity over quality. “Slim Til Dead” is instantly recognisable as coming from Jing’s stable, and it takes just minutes for any preconceived notions of the “Se7en”-style thriller suggested by the box art to be soundly dismissed. Billed as a satirical, homicidal exploration of the slimming craze gripping Hong Kong, “Slim Til Dead” is in fact little more than the usual Jing fare, being a chaotic, glossy mixture of comedy, violence and flesh, with scant consideration given to narrative logic or any kind of originality.
And yet, despite such obvious criticisms, the film is thankfully entertaining, and provides a slice of fast moving psychotic soap opera which, though skimping badly on the more visceral potential offered by the sleazy scenario, manages to win over the viewer with its general amiability more than anything else.
The film is set in the fashion world, where a mysterious killer strikes, kidnapping an unfortunate model, whom he then starves and kills through a gruesome mutilation which brings her weight down to exactly 70lbs. A detective named Tak (played by the excellent Anthony Wong, “Infernal Affairs”) is assigned to the case, helped by his wife (Sherin Teng), who used to be a criminal psychologist. Also thrown into the mix are a photographer from the mainland, a mysterious criminal connected with the beauty salon which the victims visit, and Tak’s new boss, Hung (played by Jing himself), who he is desperate to impress. As the investigation progresses, more emaciated bodies turn up, all weighing in at 70lbs, and eventually Tak’s wife decides to do a little undercover work of her own to catch the killer.
Although “Slim Til Dead” is actually directed by Marco Mak (who usually works as an editor, but has been responsible for several films, including “The Peeping” and “Xanda”), it is in every way a Wong Jing film. The usual flashy techniques seen in most of his films (“Moving Targets”, “Colour of the Truth”) are present, with a great deal of fast editing and sudden freeze frames, plus the expected overabundance of neon lighting. These elements give the film the visual feel of a tacky music video, which though not entirely inappropriate considering the subject matter and setting, does make the proceedings depressingly familiar.
The film’s main problem is the same with many Jing efforts — namely that it tries to be too many things at once, and as a result has a wildly inconsistent tone. Although ostensibly a satire on the media’s fixation with slim models, there is very little effort made to develop this into anything intellectual, and the focus is very much on the domestic life of Tak and his wife, with a great deal of time spent following their wacky arguments about having sex. To be fair, their relationship is actually quite interesting and is at times genuinely touching, though since the film is advertised as a cop thriller, this is perhaps not such welcome praise.
The vast majority of the film’s sparse action comes from characters running around in hysterics, countless scenes of mobile phone text messaging, and an incredibly gratuitous extended scaffolding climbing sequence. In terms of visceral content, there is none, a fact sure to disappoint viewers drawn in by the lurid advertising. The only violence consists of some after-the-fact blood, and despite a fair amount of cleavage shots and models in bikinis, there is no actual skin on display. The killings are never properly shown, and the scenes of the kidnapped models begging for their lives appear to be played for laughs.
“Slim Til Dead” is as a whole comical, and as a result is actually far more entertaining than may be expected, mainly due to the fact that it is genuinely quite amusing. Aside from some odd jokes about Thai kickboxing, there is a very funny pastiche of “Dumplings”, with actress Crystal Tin (recently in “It Had to be You”) putting in a charming performance in a bizarrely wacky role. Best of all is a slice of exposition which explains the killer’s flimsy motivations in a truly ludicrous and ill-judged manner.
Leading man Anthony Wong is on fine comedic form as a downtrodden detective given plenty of opportunities for clowning around, and who is constantly overshadowed by his wife. All of this, along with the fact that half of the characters appear to be insane, makes for an absurd, though enjoyably trashy
Marco Mak (director) / Jing Wong (screenplay)
CAST: Gangshan Jing …. Ken
Shereen Tang …. Ling
Crystal Tin …. Sisi
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang …. Tak
Ho-Yin Wong …. Bull
Jing Wong …. William Hung
Cherrie Ying …. Cherrie