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Golden Chicken
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Sandra Ng demonstrates the drunken fist in Golden Chicken.
Chinese: 金雞  
Year: 2002
Director: Samson Chiu Leung-Chun
Producer: Peter Chan Ho-Sun, Jojo Hui
Writer: Samson Chiu Leung-Chun, Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong
Cast: Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Hu Jun, Chapman To Man-Chat, Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting, Crystal Tin Yui-Lei, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Felix Wong Yat-Wah, Tiffany Lee Lung-Yi, Irene Tsui, Arumimihifumi, Eason Chan Yik-Shun, Andy Lau Tak-Wah
The Skinny: Sandra Ng turns in a terrific performance in this entertaining comedy-drama that doesn't quite match its leading actress. This film has fine parts, but the total sum doesn't add up to much.
by Kozo:

Last Christmas, Sandra Ng scored at the box-office with Golden Chicken, a well-produced comedy-drama from producer Peter Chan and director Samson Chiu. Ng is Kum, a life-long prostitute (or "chicken" in Cantonese slang) whose storied career is a series of embarrassing events and raunchy escapades. We first meet her in present day, when a mugger (Eric Tsang) holds her up at the ATM. Sadly, she has only 98 Hong Kong dollars in the bank, and then a power outage traps them for the night.

Since they have nothing to do, Kum begins to relate her wild and wacky career to her new friend, which not too coincidentally mirrors Hong Kong's recent turblulent history. She started as a high school hooker in 1980 and worked her way up to an upscale club girl. Sadly, she was not the greatest looking PR girl around, so she compensated with her bubbly personality and overdone good cheer. While other girls got tips with their good looks or exposed cleavage, Kum garned cash by doing Jackie Chan impressions and being the butt of jokes. Despite her (relative) unattractiveness, Kum was able to make a substantial living, and life was good.

Ah, but rain clouds appear. Literally. Kum is impregnated by an unknown client, and even though she wants to get an abortion, it seems the heavens won't let her. Every time she tries to hit the doctor's, she's stopped by a sudden deluge. If she tries to go anyway, the heavy rain turns to hail. For some reason, the gods don't want Kum to give up her child. So she decides to bear the child, but needs to find a suitable father. Fortuitiously, a nice guy named Richard (Felix Wong) shows up, who Kum tricks into believing that he's the real dad. He agrees to keep the child, and even agrees to Kum's condition: she never wants to see the child.

Kum's aversion to parental duties is not proof of her selfishness. Though she seems to enjoy her work (Prostitution, yay!), and worries that having a child would prevent her ability to make a living, Kum in fact is afraid that seeing the child will tempt her to keep it. Richard and her doctor (Alfred Cheung) follow her wishes, and she continues her life as a prostitute, weathering two stock market crashes, Tiananmen Square, the handover and more star cameos than you can shake a stick at. Tony Leung Ka-Fai shows up in a hilarious supporting role as Dr. Chan, a horny mathematician, and Eason Chan and Andy Lau show up too. Mainland actor Hu Jun (of Lan Yu fame) shows up as a too-cool triad dude who Kun lusts after. He also borrows a huge sum of cash from her, and promises to return it on the fifteenth. He never does, but Kum continues to hit the ATM every month on the fifteenth in hopes that her money has been returned. She also squeezes a worthy life out of constant selling of her body, be the customer old, fat, young, physically or mentally challenged, or just plain weird. It's all quite uplifting.

Or is it? It's hard to say how we're supposed to view Kum's life. Posited as a parallel to Hong Kong's rising and falling fortunes, Kum's ascension to "Golden Chicken" (Kum is Cantonese for gold, and chicken is slang for hooker. End Chinese lesson.) is far from appropriate. Her go-getter attitude and general likability may be positive character traits, but does that make her story fitting for the working masses? Besides being a nice person, Kum is not someone necessarily worth admiring. She doesn't dare to dream, accepts a rather sordid lot in life, and is content never to better herself. Her ultimate reward is that people do value her—karmic payback, perhaps, for being such a genuinely good person. That's a good lesson, but not enough for all the constant historical signifers thrown in the audience's face.

The above argument does start a new discussion, which is about the societal value of prostitutes and whether or not that profession is deserving of our respect, scorn or neither. Well...a film review is really not the appropriate forum for such a discussion, and I wouldn't dare to make a statement on the subject. Suffice it to say that Kum herself is too simple to be a fully rounded character. The loss of her child does create sympathy, but that device seems to be in place simply for that purpose. It doesn't really add anything to the film, and really could have been cut out. For that matter, much of the film could have been left on the cutting room floor. Aside from a few creative narrative sequences, the whole film plays as an episodic series of humorous and/or off-color vignettes.

That said, the main reason Kum's character is successful is who happens to portray her. Sandra Ng is a very skilled and interesting actress, and is one of the few Hong Kong actresses who can actually carry a film. Her range of emotions is admirable, as is her bravery in taking on such a role. The part of Kum requires an actress to put it all out there, both physically and emotionally, and Ng is game. Likewise, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Eason Chan and even Andy Lau turn in self-effacing work, and fine support is given by Chapman To (as the club owner) and Crystal Tin (as Kum's mamasan). The production is also very sound, boasting fine cinematography, terrific costumes, and a very enjoyable tone. For entertainment value, Golden Chicken does its job well. It doesn't really add up to more, as its "panorama" of Hong Kong history seems more perfunctory than anything else, but that's a high-level quibble. For those familiar with recent Hong Kong history and culture, Golden Chicken has enough minor joys to make it a worthwhile pasttime. (Kozo 2003)

Awards: 22nd Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
Nomination - Best Picture
Nomination - Best Actress (Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu)
Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Crystal Tin Yui-Lei)
Nomination - Best Art Direction (Yee Chung-Man and Wong Bing-Yiu)
Nomination - Best Costume Design (Yee Chung-Man and Dora Ng Lei-Lo)
40th Annual Golden Horse Awards
Winner - Best Actress (Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu)
Winner - Best Art Direction (Yee Chung-Man and Wong Bing-Yiu)
Winner - Best Makeup and Costume Design (Yee Chung-Man and Dora Ng Lei-Lo)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
2-Disc Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
"Making of" featurette, Music Video, Outtakes, Trailer
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image courtesy of Panorama Entertainment Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen