Tiramisu (2002) Movie Review

I guess it’s a new law now that every movie that comes out of Hong Kong has to have a ghost in it for one reason or another. In “Tiramisu”, the ghost is Karena Lam, who plays Jane Chan, a free-spirited dancer who meets an untimely end and must ask for help from deaf mailman/delivery guy Fung (Nicholas Tse). The two met over the course of the day, and upon her death, Jane’s spirit became entangled with Fung because — as she explains by way of a script that gets progressively dumber as the movie moves on — she was thinking about him and he was thinking about her. Or some such.

“Tiramisu” is filled with such nonsensical explanations, and every one of them seems to have been made up on the spot, or at least without much thought. Many of the film’s more problematic moments have to do with the afterlife and Jane’s knowledge, and then later on her lack of knowledge, of what the afterlife is and its incredibly flexible rules. Jane informs Fung that she only has seven days to help her dance company and best friend Tina (Cando Lo) compete in a generic Big Dance. It’s her life dream and Jane, despite lacking corporeal form, is hellbound to make it happen. Luckily, as another quirk of being dead in a Hong Kong movie (or just a really poorly thought up one), Jane can take over Fung’s body, thus allowing the rhythmless Fung to become a dancing machine.

If you thought the film’s outcome is predictable, you would be wrong. In fact, much of “Tiramisu” is unpredictable, for the simple reason that the script and director Dante Lam chooses all the wrong roads to travel. For instance: apparently upon death Jane is supposed to go to the underworld, where she would be reincarnated; but apparently this trip is easily skipped, because soon Jane and a horde of dead spirits are on the run from black-clad and masked “underworld cops” (the movie’s title for them, not mine). These Reaper cops appear on black horses wearing black medieval armor and shoots at fleeing spirits with crossbows. I kid you not.

Which leads me to this observation: apparently these death trackers are morons, because their only method of tracking down rebel spirits is to go to the dead person’s last known residence. Meaning that all you have to do to avoid these undead bounty hunters is to, well, not be at your last known residence, which is all Jane has to do in order to prolong her stay on Earth. You’d think Death had a more sophisticated way to track down lost souls, but you’d be wrong. Apparently Death is not only using horsemen from the time of King Arthur, but he’s still relying on tracking methods from the caveman era.

I could fill the rest of this review with all the moronic things the movie comes up with whenever it deals with the afterlife, but that wouldn’t be fun. Especially since, if you took out all the ditzy and wholly incredulous afterlife stuff, “Tiramisu” is not all that bad. The leads are very affable, especially Karena Lam, who looks very cuddly and pretty. “Tiramisu” is a far cry from her turn as a ghost-stricken young woman in “Inner Senses”, or her serious turn as a cop in “Heroic Duo”. Nicholas Tse, last seen shooting up the screen in Tsui Hark’s “Time and Tide” and the ghost-actioner “2002” (see what I mean about every Hong Kong movie having a ghost element?), is also very likeable as nice guy Fung. They certainly don’t bore, and that’s a good thing.

Dante Lam, usually known for hard-hitting action fare like “Option Zero” and “Hit Team”, has made his second lackluster movie in as many years. But Lam is not a lost cause, because even though the movie completely drops the ball when it comes to its ghost elements, the film manages to be highly entertaining whenever it bothers to spend time with Candy Lo’s grief-stricken dancer and the rest of the Big Dance storyline. In fact, the smart move would have been to make Jane and Fung just friends and Tina and Fung the potential love interests. Then again, “smart” isn’t something you can ascribe to the script.

I wouldn’t be surprise if “Tiramisu” did well with the young set in Hong Kong. It’s a film of no consequence, a phrase you can use for about 9 out of 10 movies that stars these 20-something pop idols. Hong Kong is currently flooded with Pop Idol-itis, a virus almost as deadly as SARs — for the film industry’s worldwide prestige, that is. Dante Lam’s latest effort, “The Twins Effect”, makes the point more than I can with words.

Dante Lam (director) / Man Yau Chan (screenplay)
CAST: Nicholas Tse …. Fung
Karena Lam …. Jane Chan
Eason Chan …. Bud
Candy Lo …. Tina

Buy Tiramisu on DVD