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Year: 2002 "What are you looking at?"
Simon Yam meets a Buddhist in Partners
Director: Bee Chan
Cast: Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Simon Yam Tat-Wah, Michael Wong Mun-Tak, Chapman To Man-Chat, Mary Kwan, Lihan Pang
The Skinny: Irretreivably bad. One could imagine Michael Wong or Simon Yam choosing bad projects, but Wong, Yam and Eric Tsang all choosing the same bad project together? Perhaps blackmail was involved.
by Kozo:
     Arriving on DVD with little fanfare, this suspect production about professional thieves manages to boast three bonafide Hong Kong names: Eric Tsang, Simon Yam and Michael Wong. One would hope that the three put together equalled some sort of stinker-proof guarantee. Alas, that's not the case. Partners is one amazingly terrible film.
     Simon Yam is Kwan, a professional bank robber who is partnered with Rick (Michael Wong), an ex-cop who wants to hit the big time, and Poon (Eric Tsang), a Malaysian gangster who's the most "charismatic" of the bunch. According to the requisite voiceover, the three had some big scores until Kwan got laid-up with a neck injury (from a bullet wound, naturally). In his abscence, Poon took over the gang and led them to new heights. Now that Kwan's back, they're still the same well-oiled machine.
     Or maybe not. On a seemingly routine heist in Thailand, things start to unravel. They're shadowed by an undercover cop (Chapman To in a thankless role), and gain the notice of Interpol and some random cop who frets behind his desk back in Hong Kong. That's not the big problem, though. Apparently, Poon has something against a particular Thai gangster, and he brings his partners in to help with his revenge. He keeps most of it a secret from his buddies, which does nothing for criminal camaraderie.
     And that's still not the worst thing Poon does. His worst act is to score with Rachel Lee (Mary Kwan), a leggy HK tourist who Rick has the hots for. She disses Rick repeatedly, but quickly hits the sack with the diminuitive Poon. Rick can't believe that she'd rather bed a man with the physique of a barrel, and is annoyed at Poon's high-hat attitude to boot. Kwan has his own issues with Poon, so he and Rick begin to spend a lot of time in the hotel lounge, smoking and plotting their next move, which may or may not include their partner Poon.
     This may sound like a typical crime potboiler, but this film comes with a twist. In addition to being a standard genre entry, Partners is also one of the most unnecessary, ill-conceived crime movies ever made. Every detail about the film is ripped from Wannabe Pulp Fiction 101, and most of the salient plot points are introduced in incredibly boring and uninteresting ways. Why does Poon want revenge? He tells us while he's sucking down some fresh crab. What was up with Rachel Lee that she'd choose casual sex with short and stocky Poon instead of hunky Rick? Well, there's actually a secret to that, but when we find out it hardly matters anymore.
     All fault on this can be laid at the feet of the filmmakers, who probably never graduated from tenth grade, much less film school. The script is just a randomly assembled collection of clichés and crime platitudes, and the filmmaking is just horrendous. Besides the lack of any actual storytelling, the technical aspects of the film are exceptionally shoddy. The film was shot in sync, but the sound design is supremely bad, with lots of ambient sound, poor continuity, and inconsistent audio levels. And the action design is sloppy and uninteresting.
     That leaves only Eric Tsang, Simon Yam and Michael Wong to shore up the film's shortcomings. Yam and Tsang have the ability to enliven dreck, but they don't pull it off here. Yam seems to be going through the motions, and Tsang's hammy overacting is embarassing. Michael Wong gets to deliver 95% of his dialogue in English, but 99% of the dialogue is pure crap. At least he can claim he wasn't the worst actor in the film. That honor falls on anyone in the cast not named Tsang, Yam or Wong.
     When a movie like this is made, the future of Hong Kong Cinema looks exceptionally bleak. However, this was most likely not a pure Hong Kong production. There might have been foreign interests involved, quite possibly out of Thailand or Malaysia (two of the film's locations). Maybe some rich Thai guy ponied up the bucks and the three name HK stars all needed a extra room on their houses. Since the global economy is in the dumps, forgiveness for their mercenary moviemaking is possible. It would have been nice if they had warned us, though. (Kozo 2002)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Universe Laser & Video Co., Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen