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February 25, 2016

Lost in Hong Kong

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Gang Jiong
Xu Zheng - 2015
Well Go USA Entertainment BD Region A

Since taking over the Lost series, star-writer-director Xu Zheng has indicated that should the series continue, the films will have the same basic premise but also stand alone with different characters. Lost in Hong Kong can be enjoyed by those who haven't seen Lost in Journey or Lost in Thailand, the two previous entries in the extremely popular and profitable Chinese series. As indicated in the title, Xu Zheng has misadventures in Hong Kong, although this time, Bao Bei'er inherits the shaggy wig from Wang Baoqiang, as the traveling companion who always finds a way to make a messy situation even messier.

As one who has seen almost all of the films referenced in an early sequence, the part that worked best was of Xu and Du Juan as two Chinese mainland art students in 1994, alternating between painting large posters for Hong Kong films from the 80s and 90s, with excerpts from those films. Much of the soundtrack is provided by Cantopop singers, most notably Leslie Cheung and Jacky Cheung. Xu provides an overload of references to Hong Kong films, making Quentin Tarantino look restrained in comparison. The precedence for this was Hollywood director Frank Tashlin, whose gags in films made in the 50s and 60s provided inspiration for Jean-Luc Godard, who in turn inspired QT. I don't know if Xu Zheng has any familiarity with Tashlin, but in addition to the basic story of an artist's ambitions being thwarted (Artists and Models), there's a subplot with Xu and Boa literally crashing into the set of a film in production (Hollywood or Bust), with Hong Kong director Wong Jing as himself, and Xu's career as a designer of brassieres (primarily Tashlin's films with Jayne Mansfield). Xu's career also recalls a very funny Hong Kong film from 2001, La Brassiere, which also is reminiscent of Frank Tashlin.

Xu plays the former art student, Xu Lai, now bra designer, under pressure from his wife and her family to father offsprings, hoping to rekindle his relationship with Yang Yi, now a world famous artist, presenting her work in Hong Kong. Xu's brother-in-law, Cai Lala, gets in the way, filming Xu at every point for a proposed documentary. I don't know who's responsible for this error, but Cai's inspiration is mis-named Paul Flaherty, rather than Robert. Along the way, there is the accidental filming of a murder, crooked cops, aging hookers in "Sailor Moon" costumes, and cameos by actors recognizable by the most hard core Hong Kong movie fan, with the exception claimed by the unmistakeable Lam Suet. The results are more frenetic than funny.

Zhao Wei's appearance as Xu's wife has some moments of humor, but mostly wastes the talents of this popular actress. Lost in Hong Kong was the most popular film in mainland China of last year, until the release of Monster Hunt. While Xu's film did relatively well in a limited stateside release, what some audiences may have found ingratiating, others may find simply grating.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 25, 2016 02:27 PM