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The Saving Hands
Year: 2001
Cathy Tsui looks to save Raymond Tso
Director: Chris Lau
Cast: Cathy Tsui Chi-Kei, Raymond Tso Wing-Lim, Moses Chan Ho, Tats Lau Yi-Tat, Liu Kai-Chi, Fai, Jacqueline Yeung Ho-Kei, Lau Ting-Chung
The Skinny: Join the Church, or face eternal damnation and possible repeat viewings of The Saving Hands. There's nothing wrong with religion, but there's something wrong with this movie.
by Kozo:
     A thinly-veiled recruitment film for the Christian faith. Raymond Tso stars as Fred, a triad boy who meets social worker Cathy (Cathy Tsui) and thinks he may want to go Christian. Meanwhile, various evil triads want to do him in, and his girlfriend Jackie (Jacqueline Yeung) still insists on doing bad triad things. Will Fred convert to Christianity? Can he escape the clutches of his triad tormentors? Will Jackie join Fred or continue along her path to the dark side? Will Fred decide to choose Cathy over Jackie? And will people actually be persuaded to find God as a result of this ninety minute commercial for Christianity?
     Didactic would be the best way to describe The Saving Hands, as nearly every plot point is a tool to get this point across: forgive others and believe in Jesus, and you'll find salvation and a worthy life. Everyone has a lesson to share with Fred, and all of them involve either an existential metaphor or a tale of necessary forgiveness. The forces that work against his salvation are his anger towards the triads who continue to bother him, and Jackie's inability to let go of their criminal life. Writer/director Chris Lau tries his hardest to weave all these themes together into a compelling tale that features Christianity as a theme. 
     But it isn't a theme. It's the means and the end of this overlong commercial that pushes us to repent, even if we really don't feel like it. That's because the film possesses little in the way of actual drama or character, and exists only as manufactured pathos and pontificating. Fred is an extended plot device as he's in the film only to provide a means for someone to convert to Christianity. As played by Raymond Tso, he's also incredibly blank and uninteresting.
     Popular model Cathy Tsui is even worse than uninteresting: she's bothersome and annoyingly perky. When she enthuses to Fred that she's so glad to have won a part in an Evangelical film, the first response a person might have is to hit "Stop" on that remote control. She, too, is a plot device disguised as a character, as everything about her ends with a speech pushing the need for forgiveness and faith in Jesus.
     Probably the only interesting character in the film is Jackie, who's played with an affecting rawness by newcomer Jacqueline Yeung. Despite her obvious inexperience, she at least seems to create some sense of emotion that isn't mentioned in spoken dialogue. 
     Not that her appearance saves the movie, because it doesn't. The use of triad action and angst to push this Evangelical message across seems particularly forced because it's so obvious that no one who made the film really cares about that stuff. It's just there to hook the kids, who may or may not find the Christian message compelling enough to sign up at their local church. More than likely, those same kids were throwing popcorn or talking on their cell phones in the theater (that is, if anyone actually saw this movie in the theater). As it stands, the only people likely to be affected by this movie are those who already believe the stuff anyway. (Kozo 2002)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Universe Laser & Video Co., Ltd.

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