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The Bounty
The Bounty

Chapman To and Fiona Sit haggle in The Bounty.
Chinese: 懸紅  
Year: 2012
Director: Fung Chih-Chiang
Producer:

Chau Cheok-Wa, Alex Dong, Paco Wong

Writer:

Fung Chih-Chiang

Action: Jack Wong Wai-Leung
Cast:

Chapman To Man-Chat, Fiona Sit Hoi-Kei, Alex Man Chi-Leung, Zi Yi, Zhang Jin, Wen Chao, Raymond Wong Ho-Yin, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Stephanie Cheng Yung, Charmaine Fong Ho-Man, Lai Man, Sire Ma, Michael Hui Koon-Man

  The Skinny: The Bounty has a good premise and a rare sense of humor, but the overbearing melodrama and scattershot focus drag the whole thing down. There's some potential here but it's unfortunately not realized. Bonus: Chapman To as a strangely effective action hero.
 
Review
by Kozo:
An unusual premise and rare creativity boost The Bounty above average but an over-stuffed storyline and questionable drama bring the whole thing tumbling back. Directed and written by Fung Chih-Chiang, the screenwriter of Shaolin Soccer, Sparrow and a bunch of other movies you probably loved, The Bounty stars Chapman To as Cho, a low-rent Hong Kong bounty hunter on his latest misadventure. He’s looking for Lee Kin-Fai (Ziyi), last seen at the remote Lazy Inn, run by its strange proprietor (Alex Man) and astrologer/housekeeper Linda (Fiona Sit). There, Cho waits for his prey, but first he has to navigate the oddball characters and circumstances that his life seems partial to. As Cho states early on, being a bounty hunter puts him in contact with some pretty weird characters. But this weird? Hard to fathom, much less tolerate.

Despite possessing plenty of extended shtick, The Bounty derives its laughs not from easy-to-please gags but from odd characters that border on bonkers. Chapman To’s Cho is mostly rational, but he’s got a strange streak, and only seems sane when compared with Alex Man’s blisteringly annoying hotel manager and Fiona Sit’s eccentric housekeeper with a ‘tude. As Cho gets to know his environs, he learns about the fractured relationships and private pains of the people surrounding him, with big revelations usually delivered via overblown catharsis and an overbearing score. The Bounty goes for odd, laconic humor that’s fit for giggles but not guffaws, so it upsets the apple cart when the story shoots into full-on melodrama. The film’s low-key comic tone is more off-putting than warm, so caring for the characters is harder than it should be. Basically, there’s a mismatch going on.

But there’s a crime storyline too, right? Well, sort of. Cho’s pursuit of Lee Kin-Fai is hardly tense, and ultimately falls into the same trap as the story of the hotel owners – i.e., it uses abundant drama to resolve itself. Lee is more than just a bad guy, but his backstory is detailed with such reverence that it seems overblown. Contrast that with the sillier side characters, including some bizarre triad members (who belong to the "Biting Sugar Cane Gang") and Cho’s bounty-hunting mentor (comic legend Michael Hui, who’s also a mentor to Fung Chi-Chiang) and you have a film that has too much going on, and too much to say about each and every little thing. Shaolin Soccer - if we’re comparing Fung-scripted works – had lots going on too, but it quickly identified its characters and reduced their individual moments to quick, potent asides rather than drawn-out reveals. Economy, better pacing, a tighter focus - The Bounty could use all of the above.

Fung Chi-Chiang is currently a better writer than director, though this first directorial effort is still more inspired than purely nonsensical. The production deserves some credit; the art direction and costume design are strange but refreshing. The Lazy Inn resembles something out of a modern western, and the leads are costumed to match. Also, the film shows creativity in its premise and numerous plot twists, which do spin the film in unexpected and also interesting directions. The film actually features a second baddie played by Max Zhang (of Wushu and Team of Miracle: We Will Rock You, joy), leading to amusing martial arts sequences between Zhang and Chapman To(!), who makes a surprisingly engaging action hero. To is dependable and ever-effacing in the lead, and his practiced chemistry with Fiona Sit helps to offset Alex Man’s epic scenery-chewing. With some trimmed dialogue and a more focused narrative, The Bounty might have been something special. As is, it’s still something – just not quite what it could have been. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Udine Far East Film Festival, 2012)

 
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
CN Entertainment Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image credit: Udine Far East Film Festival
   
   
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