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Mismatched Couples
Chinese: 情逢敵手 Mismatched Couples
Donnie Yen and his pink shirt
Year: 1985
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Cast: Donnie Yen Ji-Dan, Yuen Woo-Ping, Wong Wan-Si, May Lo Mei-Mei, Dick Wei, Anna Kamiyama, Brandy Yuen Chun-Yeung, Mandy Chan Chi-Man, Kenny Perez
The Skinny: Donnie Yen fights Dick Wei while wearing eyeliner and tight eighties outfits. He also wears a pink shirt and breakdances. Obviously, Mismatched Couples is totally worth your time and money.
by Kozo:

Back when it was first released, Mismatched Couples probably flew well under the radar. Now, twenty years later? It’s like buried treasure. Cringe-inducing, cheesy treasure, but treasure nonetheless. A perm-sporting, eyeliner-wearing Donnie Yen stars in this hilarious eighties time capsule as Eddie, a young slacker who breakdances to his own beat while also displaying his prodigious martial arts ability. He tries to hide his naughtiness from his sister Ying (Wong Wan-Si), but as soon as she's out of sight, he reveals his hip wackiness to the world. Eddie is the type of guy who’ll turn on a synthesizer beat right when he wakes up, attach flashy stickers to his plain hoodie for instant street cred, and generally act in an acrobatic, groovy manner even when nobody’s looking. Why? Because apparently, Eddie rocks.

It’s easy to believe that Eddie is the man because he’s played by Donnie Yen. Mismatched Couples was released in 1985, long before Yen became an international star, and the very young Yen shows off a goofy, agreeable charm weighed down by none of the badass preening that would typify his later performances. The story and direction help, removing any notion that the movie aims to be a substantial one. As directed by Yuen Woo-Ping, Mismatched Couples is an obvious throwaway product, possessing little in terms of actual filmmaking craft. Story, character, themes and technique – all of that mean jack here, and the audience can either get on or off. Mismatched Couples is prototypical eighties tripe, with shoddy acting, a crappy synth score, bathroom humor, and name-calling in place of actual dialogue. Turning up one’s nose at the crass silliness on display would be easy, and nobody would ever hate you for dismissing the film as unnecessary.

Then again, looking at the silly poster artwork should be all it takes for anyone to decide if the film is for them. Sure, Mismatched Couples is lame and silly, but it’s also energetic and entertaining - albeit in a largely unintentional manner. Little of that entertainment can be attributed to the story. The film’s narrative is paper-thin even by eighties Hong Kong standards, and is filled with vapid sitcom shenanigans and non-existent characters. Eddie befriends Mini (director Yuen Woo-Ping), a martial arts expert and street hawker who loses his cart after a routine cop raid. Sensing a potential martial arts teacher, Eddie sets Mini up with a job at Ying’s restaurant, leading to rampant mugging and creative slapstick as Ying mistakes Mini for a potential suitor instead of an employee. Eventually, everyone recovers from their sitcom delusions, but not before actual romance begins to blossom.

The film is called Mismatched Couples, so there needs to be a second pairing. Current Jacky Cheung spouse May Lo acts up an adorable storm as Eddie’s cousin Stella, who grows jealous when he pursues the local beauty queen Anna (Anna Kamiyama). Eddie and Stella bicker and fight, but little doubt exists that they’ll eventually get together. The cherry on top of this silly cinema cake: Dick Wei plays the primary antagonist, a narcissistic fitness freak who lusts for a real fighting challenge. After he discovers that Eddie can dance AND fight, he thinks he’s found a real master and stalks Eddie disturbingly in order to grapple with him in a sweaty and possibly homoerotic manner. He also laughs in a ridiculously evil way and dares people to bite his rock-hard biceps, all while wearing a headband and tight exercise outfits. Man, were the eighties awesome or what?

That last point is arguable, as is attempting to classify Mismatched Couples as quality filmmaking, because really, who can successfully make a case for this as a serious production? And who in their right mind would even attempt such a thing? Probably no one - and hey, that's okay. Nobody from Yuen Woo-Ping on down seems to be pretending that Mismatched Couples is cinema to remember, and that lack of pretension ultimately makes it easy to like and remember. The comedy and mugging are annoying, but the stuntwork, casual athleticism and cheesy energy compensate. Mismatched Couples is as oddly charming as it is cringeworthy. This is the type of crazy, entertaining B-level stuff that once made up a good portion of Hong Kong Cinema, and is especially fun today because of its odd mixture of genres plus the glimpse of a gloriously goofy Donnie Yen. The pre-superstar Yen and his obnoxiously slammin' dance moves make this a must-see, and a double feature with a film featuring his current badass self would double the fun factor. My recommendation: see Ip Man first, then Mismatched Couples. Buy beer, too. (Kozo 2009)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Joy Sales
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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image credit: Fortune Star Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen