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Two Thumbs Up
Nick Cheung and Monica Mok in To Live and Die in Mongkok

Simon Yam, Patrick Tam, Mark Cheng and Francis Ng in Two Thumbs Up.
Chinese: 衝鋒車  
Year: 2015  
  Director: Lau Ho-Leung

Albert Lee, Ren Yue, Soi Cheang Pou-Soi

Writer: Lau Ho-Leung  

Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Simon Yam Tat-Wah, Leo Koo Kui-Kei, Patrick Tam Yiu-Man, Mark Cheng Ho-Nam, Christie Chen, Philip Keung Ho-Man, Rock Ji, Jie Zhuang, Jamie Cheung, Siu Yam-Yam, Jack Kao, Law Wing-Cheong, Alan Mak Siu-Fai, Felix Chong Man-Keung, Mark Wu Yiu-Fai

  The Skinny: Great casting and a terrific premise are handicapped by an overstuffed screenplay and overeager direction. As a general audience picture, Two Thumbs Up has the goods to entertain, but the needless details and attempts at meaning can be very annoying. One thumb up is enough.
by Kozo:

Longtime screenwriter Lau Ho-Leung (Undercover Hidden Dragon, Triple Tap) makes his directorial debut with Two Thumbs Up – and you can really tell that he’s a screenwriter. This crime comedy has a terrific premise and fan-favorite casting, but it’s also incredibly overwritten, weaving self-conscious dialogue, multiple character arcs, maudlin lessons and unnecessary metaphor into a self-indulgent web of screenwriter conceits. After some onscreen text stating that the film is “Based on fictional events”, the audience is introduced to ex-con Big F (Francis Ng), who’s released from a Malaysian prison but is hankering to return to the criminal life in Hong Kong. Along with former cronies Crazy B (Simon Yam), Johnny T (Patrick Tam) and East L (Mark Cheng), Big F plans to put together a fake police Emergency Unit (EU) van so that he and his buddies can cruise the streets and earn false praise from the citizenry. Then they’ll commit robberies. Genius!

Procuring an actual EU van isn’t easy but the gang has the bright idea of taking a public minibus and outfitting it to resemble one. Unfortunately, a group of vicious thieves (led by Keung Ho-Man and Christie Chen) have a similar idea, as well as the same target: a corrupt funeral service that smuggles money across the border by hiding it in corpses. Throw in a tireless cop (Leo Koo) who’s tracking the bunch, and some internal strife in Big F’s gang, and you have a powder keg of situations and personalities waiting to explode. Whoops, there’s also a woman running an ice-cream truck, a lost little girl, a befuddled old lady (Siu Yam-Yam), a campsite full of sleeping campers, and a bizarre subplot about an army of massing cockroaches. If the film added space aliens and laser sharks, it might actually be OK. Hell, if you’ve already dumped the fridge, oven, gas grill and Cuisinart into the mix, throwing in the kitchen sink won’t make much difference.

Complementing Lau’s packed-to-the-gills screenplay is his overeager direction. The in-your-face storytelling features overdone voiceover and flashbacks, plus visual gimmicks like onscreen graphics and diagrams. The acting is also exaggerated, with the actors – many of whom are accomplished scenery chewers – overdoing their already cartoonish characters. Even their wardrobe is amped; Francis Ng and Simon Yam eschew their usual suave gangster personas to play annoying dudes with awful hair and questionable fashion. Patrick Tam plays a hairdresser so you know he’ll be coiffed to the nines, while Mark Cheng looks and acts like a super-stereotypical dork. Lau Ho-Leung gives his characters very distinct personalities, but he could have done so without relentlessly pushing their oddities. However, the film does slow down to give each character a moment, and some – like Crazy B’s connection to the little girl – manage decent affect. The film’s heart may be contrived, but the simpler emotions are a welcome respite from all the craziness.

Not faring as well is Leo Koo as cop Tsui On-Leung. Tsui is a super-righteous, super-competent cop who impresses with his detective skills but annoys with rambling ruminations on existential cop issues and superhero costumes, among other minutiae. Also, Tsui’s badge number, 39633, happens to be the same number as Big F’s former prison ID – meaning what, exactly? Who really knows, but the screenplay keeps dropping the detail as a sort of metaphysical connection that’s supposed to matter. Even the phrase “Two Thumbs Up” has meaning, having to do with the respect a person is given, and it too gets mentioned over and over. All of these supposedly clever details end up being cloying and tiresome. Lau Ho-Leung is certainly a creative individual, but he may be too intent on proving it. Rather than go the “show not tell” route, Lau opts for “show and tell and tell and tell and tell”. Dude, you lost me at the third tell.

Two Thumbs Up nevertheless has its charms. There are genuinely funny gags sprinkled throughout, and the idea of bad guys accidentally becoming good guys is a winning one. Fans of the Hong Kong crime genre might dislike the film’s compromises (the film is a China co-production and largely adheres to the implicit content guidelines), but general audiences may enjoy the positive themes and the lead actors, who register as likable enough doofuses after a fashion. Also, the converging details and plotlines reach a kind of wacky euphoria; pretty much every detail that was dropped in the previous ninety minutes returns in the final ten, and you have to give Lau Ho-Leung credit for even attempting to tie all his self-indulgent ideas together. Messy but passably entertaining, Two Thumbs Up does enough to earn itself a single thumb of approval. A message to Lau Ho-Leung: Show some restraint next time and maybe you’ll get that second thumb. (Kozo 6/2015)

  Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
CN Entertainment Ltd.
2-Disc Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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