Site Features
- Asian Film Awards
- Site Recommendations

- Reader Poll Results

- The Sponsor Page
- The FAQ Page
support this site by shopping at
Click to visit
Asian Blu-ray discs at
Ming Ming

(left) Zhou Xun as Ming Ming, and (right) Zhou Xun as Nana and Daniel Wu as D.
AKA: Nana on the Run
Chinese: 明明
Year: 2007
Director: Susie Au Shuet-Yi
Writer: Susie Au Shuet-Yi, Angela Lau

Zhou Xun, Daniel Wu, Tony Yang, Jeff Chang, Kristy Yeung Kung-Yu, Chan Bo-Yuen

The Skinny: Attractive and unfathomable. Susie Au's debut feature has style to spare, though to what end is ultimately questionable. Alternately enthralling and annoying, which isn't entirely a bad thing. Your mileage may vary.
by Kozo:

Cross Wong Kar-Wai with over-the-top Japanese anime and what might you get? Ming Ming. Music video director Susie Au's debut feature is sometimes stunning and sometimes unfathomable, meaning it's only partially successful. But there's good stuff here, too. Zhou Xun stars in two roles, first as Ming Ming, a black-clad superchick who's fallen for D (Daniel Wu), a tough enforcer working for mob boss Brother Cat (Taiwanese singer Jeff Chang). While sharing some quality time in the tub, D confides to Ming Ming that he only needs two things: 5 million dollars and a trip to Harbin. Rather than try to understand his need, Ming Ming steals the money from Brother Cat. Her goal is to hand it off to D so they can visit Harbin together. Unfortunately, soon after snatching the money, Ming Ming can't seem to find D.

Besides lifting the cash, Ming Ming also takes a special wooden box from Brother Cat, and he's exceptionally bothered to get that box back. Brother Cat sends plenty of thugs after Ming Ming, but she's able to fend them off thanks to her keen martial arts skills and ability to throw, uh, black beads. Ming Ming frequently flings these little black beads (Which look like the tapioca balls you might find in your boba milk tea. Mmmm, boba.) at her pursuers, many of whom get punctured by the flying projectiles. The chase eventually takes to the streets of Central, where Ming Ming hands off the money to Tu (Taiwanese star Tony Yang), who has the self-proclaimed talent of "running", and manages to elude many of Brother Cat's thugs by sometimes running up walls or leaping in an egregiously wire-assisted way. Chasing both Tu and Ming Ming is Mousey (Chan Bo-Yuen), Brother Cat's number one henchman and a frequent recipient of black pearl projectiles.

Tu has a minor thing for Ming Ming, but during his extended chase with Brother Cat's goons, he meets Nana, a spunky, cute, orange-haired lass who becomes his inadverdant traveling partner. Nana looks a lot like Ming Ming, which is understandable because she's also played by Zhou Xun, only this time in a louder, sassier, more girlish manner. In a massive coincidence, Nana is also in love with D, which means Tu now is on the run with a girl who looks like his current crush, but has a crush on the same guy his current crush does. Raise your hand if that sounds confusing. Oddly, Tu and Nana's storyline gets greater focus than Ming Ming's, as the two wander around and eventually get drawn closer together despite carrying torches for other people. Ming Ming takes a backseat, and spends her time looking depressed in a hotel room while Nana and Tu eat up all her screentime. The trade-off isn't so bad because Nana and Tu make a charming couple in that "shared unrequited love" kind of way. The bad news is that without Ming Ming around, the action sequences screech to a virtual halt.

Meanwhile, the ever-brooding D has his own quest: he's searching for the whereabouts of his mother, and the key may be the same wooden box Ming Ming absconded with. Forget the fact that at least two hot girls who look like Zhou Xun are looking for him, D clearly has more important things to do. His quest leads to a cameo from Kristy Yeung, as well as a street fight with a bunch of black-clad thugs that's part Matrix, part Kung Fu Hustle, and part Looney Tunes. Eventually everything comes together with a shocking revelation. One key character dispenses the mother of all secrets, which no one in the audience likely expected because it's outlandish and seems to come from practically nowhere. Basically, the film handles some of its themes better than others, such that the big revelation may cause some viewers to respond with a resounding, "Huh?", if not outright laughter at the ridiculousness of what the filmmakers are selling. Really, Ming Ming is that kind of movie.

But hey, that's okay, because Ming Ming pretty much promises to be unlike your usual movie a good five seconds into its running time. Thanks to an abundance of showy style, Ming Ming proves downright alienating at first. The overdone freeze frames, rapid-fire cuts, and off-kilter editing can disorient the viewer, and the dense and disconnected storyline only adds to the lack of identification. Ming Ming is a strange movie that operates in a strange world. Flinging black beads for weapons? How does a person do that? What's up with Tu's "running" abilities? Why the over-stylized fights? Ming Ming is a work of tremendous imagination, though originality may not be a factor here. There's a lot in Ming Ming that's been seen before; the style is definitely nothing new, having been lifted from the French New Wave, Wong Kar-Wai, and yep, even The Matrix. The effect could be instant alienation on those who've seen any or all of the the above films.

Then again, it's hard to knock any modern filmmaker for appropriating because that's pretty much all one can do nowadays. Film and pop-culture consciousness is something that no modern filmmaker can be isolated from, and as a result there are bound to be lifts here and there - though one could argue that Ming Ming does it more than just "here or there". Still, Au manages to balance out the film's egregious style by getting many of the emotions correct. During their questionably relevant road trip, Tu and Nana slowly grow closer, and Au captures that with affecting observational style. The film sometimes slows to a crawl, but there's some enjoyment in seeing the lovelorn Tu and Nana futzing about. The action and chase sequences also work sometimes; even though Au's MTV-influenced style isn't that original, it's still exceptionally cool, and the hip soundtrack (from Anthony Wong Yiu-Ming, among others) and energetic camerawork are sometimes enough to make Ming Ming soar. Susie Au has created an intoxicating, sometimes seductive cinema cocktail with Ming Ming. When it works, it's quite a trip.

However, it doesn't always work, which is where the film ultimately suffers. Ming Ming earns points for its existential emotions and sheer stylistic chutzpah, but the film doesn't involve enough to erase its more glaring issues. It's incredibly uneven and even overlong, with flashbacks, repetition and other editing tricks noticeably padding the film out. The drama is sometimes assumed rather than earned, and the film's major plot twist is never developed enough to make it more than a self-indulgent plot detail. The action walks a thin line between cool and silly, and while many of the stylistic flourises do dazzle, others seem excessive if not pointless. Style can sometimes be enough to carry a film, but Ming Ming's thematic aims are so transparent that the whole film becomes a bit pandering. Too often, Au settles for voiceover exposition to tell us what the film is supposed to be about - a big no-no if she's trying to sell this as a purely sensory experience. And if the film is supposed to have real dramatic weight, then the abundance of silly concepts only gets in the way. A middle ground seems nearly impossible to find here.

There's a lot to like in Ming Ming but also a lot to scratch your head over, and the balance could tip either way depending on who you are. If Susie Au's goal was simply to assault audiences with a pseudo-meaningful pop-art confection then Ming Ming is a success. The style is nearly enough to carry the film, and the actors (especially Zhou Xun) are charismatic and brave enough to go wherever Au chooses to take them. But if the goal was something of more tangible thematic depth, then Ming Ming falters. The style never seems to echo the film's self-proclaimed significance, and ultimately seems unnecessary to the existential issues faced by so many of the characters. Which is the way to go? Since film is largely a subjective medium, then there's probably no right answer here. Just pick your side and reap the reward and/or punishment. At the very least, Ming Ming is a tremendous first effort for director Susie Au, and shows that she may have a bright future ahead of her. Au doesn't fully succeed with Ming Ming, but her obvious love for film and its myraid powers gives us hope that one day her passion will pay off. (Kozo 2007)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Joy Sales Film and Video Distributors
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Original Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

images courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen