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Phantom Call
Chinese: 手機凶靈 "Be vewy quiet...I'm hunting wabbits!"
Anthony Wong
Year: 2000
Director: Sam Ho Shu-Pui
Action: Wong Siu-Ming, Yip Chow-Chan
Cast: Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Yeung Hoi-Kei, Woody Chan Chin-Pang, Che Biu-Law, Bat Leung-Gum, Ng Chi-Hung, Nancy Lan Sai, Candy Hau Woon-Ling
The Skinny: Imagine The Sixth Sense with Anthony Wong in the Bruce Willis role and Sam Lee as Haley Joel Osment, and you'll get some idea of what Phantom Call is all about. Okay, maybe that's a wildly inaccurate generalization, but this horror-comedy is so forgettable that it's the best I can do.
Review by

Perhaps riding the recent wave of Sixth Sense retreads, Phantom Call is yet another movie about a man and a ghost. In the flick, Anthony Wong plays the curiously named Lee Siu-Lung (that's Bruce Lee to you and me), a penny-ante loan shark in need of some quick cash. After a silly run-in with a debtor that provides few dividends, our man "Bruce" crosses paths with his triad superior Bill (played by perpetual heavy Ng Chi-Hung), who promptly gives him an ultimatum to pay up, defacing poor Bruce with red paint in the process. To make matters worse, when Bruce gets home, he finds his wife cheating on him and, shall we say, less than apologetic. And to top it all off, Bruce accidentally gets himself caught up in a robbery! The thieves, deciding Bruce has seen too much, take him out to the woods, have him dig a hole and, well, it's bye, bye, Bruce!

With our protagonist now dead, Sam Lee enters as Pui, a hipster doofus who's pining after a local cake vendor named Maggie. While visiting his father's grave, Pui stumbles upon Bruce's dropped cell phone, which henceforth psychically connects the two. After the standard "scary" misunderstandings, Bruce and Pui become friends, Pui agrees to help Bruce take revenge, and the friendly ghost consents to aid the lovelorn guy in his quest to win Maggie away from a wealthy suitor. And, in one fell swoop, there's the simultaneous intertwining of a basic "revenge from the grave" plot with your typical, sappy romantic comedy.

If you haven't guessed already, Phantom Call is more than a little screwed up. At first, the film seems to be a commentary on the prevalence of cell phones in our society. By the end though, the movie becomes a meditation on the futility of revenge. But that's really just philosophical window dressing for this would-be horror comedy. I say "would-be" because the movie's not scary in the least, nor was it probably intended to be (though seeing Sam Lee in drag is nothing less than horrifying). Phantom Call is not that funny either; the humor is either nonexistent or just plain bizarre. Consider this non-sequitor: shortly after Pui finds Bruce's cell phone, a young woman who randomly appears in the film gets possessed by the spirit of the real Bruce Lee and promptly begins mimicking the legendary fighter. Is Anthony Wong's character Bruce supposed to be the reincarnation of the Little Dragon? Nope, the identical names are just a sorry excuse for a groan-inducing Bruce Lee parody—which, by the way, is never supported by anything else in the film.

In other words, don't bother trying to gleam any higher purpose out of this film because Phantom Call is really just a chance for Sam Lee and Anthony Wong to mug for the camera while earning a paycheck. The film makes for light viewing and can be somewhat enjoyable if you've gone in with lowered expectations, but don't expect putting it on any comedy "ten best lists." And if Phantom Call ends up on your DVD shelf, be warned. Next to your copies of John Woo crime dramas and Jackie Chan action flicks, you'll have a real phantom menace on your hands…to your film collection's credibility. (Calvin McMillin 2003)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Universe Laser & Video Co., Ltd.

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