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Men Suddenly in Black
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Upper left: Chapman To, Jordan Chan and Spirit Blue.
Upper right: Candy Lo, Tiffany Lee, Teresa Mo and Marsha Yuan.
Lower left: Tony Leung Ka-Fai and his girls.
Lower right: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai.
Chinese: 大丈夫  
Year: 2003
Director: Pang Ho-Cheung
Producer: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Nat Chan Bak-Cheung
Writer: Pang Ho-Cheung, Patrick Kong, Erica Lee Man
Cast: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Jordan Chan Siu-Chun, Chapman To Man-Chat, Teresa Mo Sun-Kwan, Candy Lo Hau-Yam, Marsha Yuan Ji-Wai, Tiffany Lee Lung-Yi, Spirit Blue (Jia Zongchao), Maria Cordero, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Teresa Mak Ka-Kei, Stephanie Che Yuen-Yuen, Nat Chan Bak-Cheung, Lam Suet, Jim Chim Sui-Man, Annabelle Lau Hiu-Tung, Chin Kar-Lok, Ellen Chan Ar-Lun, Carlo Ng Ka-Lok, Timmy Hung Tin-Ming, Belinda Hamnett, Kitty Chu Kit-Yi, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Cheung Tat-Ming, Ken Wong Hap-Hei, Iris Wong Yat-Tung, Jackie Lui Chung-Yin, Coco Chiang Yi, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Alan Tam Wing-Lun, Gia Lin, Osman Hung Chi-Kit, Otto Wong, Eddie Peng Wai-On, Eric Tse
The Skinny: Probably the most creatively-written Hong Kong film of the year, Men Suddenly in Black is a funny, clever dark comedy that takes an also-ran premise (four guys try to cheat on their wives) and gets surprising results. One of the best films of 2003 thus far.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Back in 2001, Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung unleashed You Shoot, I Shoot upon an unsuspecting Hong Kong audience. The film wasn't much of a hit with Hong Kong audiences, but has since gained a small following on video for its wicked skewering of Hong Kong hitmen and the territory's floundering socio-economic climate. While the film never really achieved anything lofty, its creative, intelligent wit was more than welcome. Thankfully, Pang is at it again with Men Suddenly in Black. His black comedy on philandering husbands takes an easy premise and wrings surprising material from it. This is probably not a movie for those seeking warm-and-fuzzy smiles, but for those who wouldn't mind some intelligent Hong Kong silliness, this film could be just what the doctor ordered.

Tin (Eric Tsang), Cheung (Jordan Chan), Chao (Chapman To) and Paul (Spirit Blue) are on a mission. The four have undertaken on this very day to go out and sleep with women they are not married to. Such a decision seems to be one that happens every day in the ugly real world, but in the world of Men Suddenly in Black, it's an event that requires careful planning, fortuitous happenstance, and a trip to Thailand for the significant others. Since their wives (Teresa Mo, Candy Lo, Masha Yuen and Tiffany Lee) will be out of the country, the men have exactly fourteen hours in which to betray those to which they are wed. They meet, prepare their supplies—cash, an inconspicous vehicle (a taxi), and many condoms—and set out on Mission Number One: a rendezvous with their first loves, AKA: hopefully some free sex.

Immediately, problems beset them. The sex isn't necessarily free (not everyone wants to sleep with a married man), spies are everywhere (are those the in-laws?), and the legality of some things aren't always in order. Mission Number Two is a cyber cafe (run by serial overacter Jim Chim Sui-Man), but the women aren't up to quality. And there's a raid by the cops and a suspicous amount of overeager tabloid photographers. And isn't that Cheung's wife's car tailing them? How did the women get on their trail? Is there a betrayer amongst the four? And shouldn't the four philandering husbands realize their true calling, and return home to their wives, homes, mortgages and assorted other shackles of a society? In most movies like this, our "heroes" would soon realize that sneaking around on your spouse is bad, and going home is what you have to do. At least, that's what a reasonable audience member would expect.

Well, that's not how it goes down in Men Suddenly in Black. Instead of giving up and going home to the wives, the heroes decide they must continue on their quest for outside booty. The reasoning is all over the map and actually quite funny: one reasons that he has to sneak around in order to treat his wife better, and another simply says he wants to finally have sex. There's also an honorable reason for their actions: one of their older comrades (Tony Leung Ka-Fai in a hilarious cameo) once sacrificed himself for his buddies, and took the full blame for a night at the club. As a result, he lives at home with his powerful wife (Sandra Ng, in an equally hilarious cameo), who continually grills him to name names, and even uses the promise of porn magazines to get him to talk. If anything, the four guys HAVE to get laid by women they aren't married to, if only to make their friend's sacrifice meaningful. It's like they're in a triad, except there are no dingy bars or knife fights—just ritzy hotel suites with half-dressed models and complimentary contraceptives. Yes, this is unusual stuff.

Basically, someone should just sit Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung down and throw a barrel of money at him to write and direct his next motion picture, which will hopefully be as witty and creative as his last two. Men Suddenly in Black is most definitely not to be taken seriously, and it wears its cinematic sarcasm like a badge of honor. The men treat their adultery with the same seriousness as a top-secret government mission. The women chase the men to gain evidence of their betrayal—not because they feel jilted, but because they want leverage in their relationships. There are even knowing parodies to Infernal Affairs and the slow-motion gunplay of John Woo. When beset by paparazzi who may gain evidence of their activities, the men explode with two-gun waterhose action and flying flash-camera acrobatics. Silly, and perhaps a little too over-the-top, but also pretty damn funny.

If anything truly negative could be levied at Men Suddenly in Black, it could be that its silliness is potentially damaging. There are probably some out there who would decry the "comedy" for lampooning male-female relationships to a frighteningly scathing degree. Are men supposed to be lauded for their cheating ways? Are women just gold-digging harridans who want to keep their men on power-sapping leashes? Is Pang trying to say anything by making one designated couple seemingly regretful and forgiving? Who can really tell in the ninety-nine minutes the film zooms by?

That the film was shot and edited with quick, stylistic strokes makes it even easier to digest. There are brief moments of encroaching maudlin seriousness, but everything moves so fast and furiously that just taking it in is involving and entertaining enough. Maybe a repeat viewing would reveal some darker subtext about how men or women are truly evil, and how the covenant of marriage is only for saps or suckers, but somehow I doubt that to be the case. The script may step on a few landmines of the sexually political variety, but it—and Pang's direction—are quickfooted enough to nimbly scamper by. Forget dissecting what it all means; we should just be glad that the film proves funny in a consistent, intelligent manner. And, it does so in a way that most current Hong Kong "comedies" do not. Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung: please make more movies. (Kozo 2003)

 
Awards: 23rd Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Winner - Best Supporting Actor (Tony Leung Ka-Fai)
• Winner - Best New Director (Pang Ho-Cheung)
40th Annual Golden Horse Awards
• Nomination - Best Director (Pang Ho-Cheung)
• Nomination - Best Supporting Actor (Chapman To Man-Chat)
• Nomination - Best Original Screenplay (Pang Ho-Cheung, Erica Lee Man, Patrick Kong)
10th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
• Recommended Film
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
2-Disc Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Director commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, storyboards, trailers, TV spots, music video, "Making of" featurette

images courtesy of Mei Ah Entertainment

   
 
 
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