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Crazy N' The City


Top left: Alex Fong takes Joey Yung for a ride.
Lower left: Francis Ng gets close to Meng Zhang.
Right: Eason Chan considers the "Healthy Choice" menu at McDonald's.
Chinese: 神經俠侶
Year: 2005
Director: James Yuen Sai-Sang
Producer: Derek Yee Tung-Sing, Henry Fong Ping
Writer: James Yuen Sai-Sang, Jessica Fong Ching, Law Yiu-Fai
Cast: Eason Chan Yik-Shun, Joey Yung Tso-Yi, Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Yan Ng Yat-Yin, Chloe Chiu Shuet-Fei, Meng Zhang, Kara Hui Ying-Hung, Lam Suet, Hui Siu-Hung, Chin Kar-Lok, Alex Fong Chung-Sun, Henry Fong Ping, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Crystal Tin Yui-Lei, Liu Kai-Chi, Daichi Harashima, Elena Kong Mei-Yi, Waise Lee Chi-Hung, Ella Koon Yun-Na, Candy Hau Woon-Ling
The Skinny: Uneven but entertaining, this cop soap opera works thanks to recognizable characters, solid themes, and something we can only call "that Hong Kong feeling." Crazy N' The City misses a few opportunities and pushes others a little too far, but this is better-than-average stuff that's far more genuine than most Hong Kong films. Eason Chan turns in a fine performance, and Francis Ng isn't half-bad either.
   
Review
by Kozo:

If Crazy N' The City is any indication, Hong Kong Cinema won't be that bad in 2005. A return to that beloved Hong Kong genre called the "Cop Soap Opera," Crazy N' the City manages to channel entertaining life with some tried-and-true movie themes and something we can only describe as "that Hong Kong feeling." Eason Chan is Chris Chan, a beat cop whose years on the force have reduced his once hot-blooded nature into something only lukewarm. Chris has never used his gun in the line of duty, and approaches his job with a weary, cynical laziness that could easily earn him a starring role in Kevin Smith's upcoming Clerks sequel. To Chris, it's all just a job, and nothing more. He cares nothing for his colleagues, hates sucking up to superiors, and doesn't want to walk uphill unless it's on his prescribed beat. He could be poster child for Gen-X slackers everywhere.

Enter Man Liu (Joey Yung), a too-idealistic 23 year-old rookie who's looking to matter. Man Liu is egregiously wide-eyed, and jumps at the chance to do things like save cats, help old ladies, and help Mainland tourists. Man Liu is a bit of a caricature, but she serves her purpose. In the standard formula, she's the half of the cop team that's idealistic and young, while Chris is the cynical, frustratingly old half. If the filmmakers followed the formula to the letter, you could place a hefty wager on the young cop inspiring the old cop, with their growing friendship a catalyst for a cathartic ending where Chris exclaims, "I'm a cop!" while pumping his fist in the air. Also, with both Eason Chan and Joey Yung in the leads, the potential for a Chris-Man Liu romance is too obvious to ignore. If you drop your dollars on the DVD thinking that's what you're going to get, nobody would blame you.

Happily, that's not what writer-director James Yuen does. Most notably, there is no Chris-Man Liu romance, which probably pissed off music company EEG (who owns both Eason Chan and Joey Yung), but is a welcome break from the norm for the rest of us. Even more, Man Liu doesn't really inspire Chris; instead, each slowly pulls the other towards a more realistic center. Man Liu experiences minor burnout from her too-pronounced enthusiasm, while Chris finds a minor reawakening from the attentions of two teenage girls (spritely Yan Ng and too-cute Chloe Chiu) who become his biggest fans after he takes down a pervert in front of them. This leads to teasing from his colleagues, and a stint as their guest self-defense instructor. Meanwhile, slightly-insane former brassiere salesman Shing (Francis Ng) meets his pretty new neighbor (Meng Zhang), and a daring rapist/murderer starts a crime spree in Wanchai. All this plus numerous cameos, human interludes, minor characters, and even some death. It's a cop film after all.

But not a normal cop film. In the "Cop Soap Opera" genre, just as much time is spent on the mundane and minuscule as the dire and the deadly. In the case of Crazy N' The City, the scales tip heavily in favor of minor character happenstance and not primo cop stuff. Chris, Man Liu, and even Shing undergo change in the course of their daily lives, with each character's story serving to strengthen and support the other. Shing, in particular, undergoes a massive change, as his new love interest shakes him from his shell-shocked norm into something resembling a fully-functional human being. A series of harrowing personal setbacks once drove Shing to the brink of suicide, and he's now a shell of a man, talking into a broken cell phone as if it were still two years ago. The character is a tough sell, especially since his story arc is so patently unrealistic, but Francis Ng helps by making Shing a righteous, charming village idiot and not just a raving loon. Joey Yung doesn't exactly come off as the next Gigi Leung, but she gives Man Liu a likable, though sometimes tiresomely cute demeanor. At the very least Yung doesn't seem like the complete waste of an actress she first appeared to be.

On the opposite end of the acting spectrum, Eason Chan turns in the film's strongest performance. Chris is a grouchy, yet likable lout who somehow regains his sense of moral duty, and though the change is expected and trite, Chan makes it seem real and even earned. Chan manages to hit the right notes, which is something to be thankful for because otherwise Crazy N' The City appears uneven, and even cloying. Though much of the character work is intriguing, well-drawn stuff, when the film hits the eighty-five minute mark, James Yuen starts to get cloying and obvious. Would-be dramatic flourishes and inspirational music become standard practice, which is usually the audience's cue to start laughing in disbelief at the straight-faced seriousness of it all. Self-conscious restraint sometimes helps (see Task Force for a stellar postmodern cop soap opera), and without it, Crazy N' The City starts to look a little cheesy.

Then again, knocking Crazy N' The City for getting too serious is probably too much, as it's those emotional extremes that actually make the film successful. Rapid transitions from endearing comedy to pulse-pounding tension have long characterized Hong Kong Cinema, and to the filmmakers credit, they're able to take Crazy N' The City from slightly disturbing farce to life-and-death drama in a credible, and sometimes even moving fashion. Unexpected emotional highs and lows are delivered, and though the delivery is occasionally hackneyed, it's still enough to affect. The rich location (street-level Wanchai) and attention to both the inconsequential and the important gives the film a likable, homey charm. There's an appreciable local flavor to the film that enriches the characters and makes them seem real—and that in itself makes Crazy N' The City infinitely better than most of Hong Kong cinema's recent output. The whole is still a bit uneven, but this feels like a Hong Kong movie - which is a rare and welcome thing indeed. (Kozo 2005)

   
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

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