East Meets West 2011 is an update in tone of Jeff Lau’s 1993 film Eagle Shooting Heroes, a classic comedy film that boasted a huge cast (many of whom were borrowed from Wong Kar-Wai’s Ashes of Time, which was running over budget and needed another film to be made with the core cast to balance the books!) and has become one of the mainstay comedy films due to the crazy and energetic feel to the picture. East Meets West 2011 takes inspiration from that, transports the reincarnated gods to modern day, and adds super hero trappings and some philosophical discussion into the mix. And though it isn’t non-stop zaniness, it is still a good time and is one of my favorite recent Hong Kong films.
While Eagle Shooting Heroes/Ashes of Time are largely based on Jin Yong’s Condor Heroes trilogy, East Meets West 2011 instead takes from another of Jin Yong’s wuxia works, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. The eight major characters known as the Eight Heavenly Dragons are based on the eight races of non-human entities described in Buddhist cosmology, called Tianlong Babu (天龍八部) the “8 kinds of beings that protect the Dharma” The Eight Races are the Deva, Nāga, Yaksha, Asura, Garuda, Kinnara, Gandharva and Mahoraga. Tianlong 天龍 means Heaven Dragon, but can also translate to deva-nāga “Devas and Nāgas”, the 2 highest categories of tianlong. The lower 6 categories are: yecha 夜叉 “Yaksha; cannibalistic devils; nature spirits”, gantapo 乾闥婆 “Gandharva; half-ghost music masters”, axiuluo 阿修羅 “Asura; evil and violent demigods”, jialouluo 迦樓羅 “Garuda; golden bird-like demons that eat dragons”, jinnaluo 緊那羅 “Kinnara; half-human half-bird celestial music masters”, maholuluojia 摩睺羅迦 “Mahoraga; earthly snake spirits”. And, yes, I ganked all that from Wikipedia.
Jeff Lau’s films are almost always crazy awesome, and he’s very good at bringing Western elements into his work. Lau’s films often look more advanced than their counterparts from the same year, and hold up much longer than normal. His vision can take the simplest tale and give it a grand scope. Even the title of East Meets West 2011 shows the clash of Western and Eastern styles, with the Eastern gods taking up Western super hero visuals in a modern Hong Kong, while still being connected to the ancient past and Jade Emperors and all that jazz. Even the music comes from both the West and East, with a remake of Happy Together used several times, as well as a redo of the James Bond theme (this might be one of the first times I’ve heard the score legitimately used in an overseas film, as I’ve been spending too much time watching old genre films that have been ripping it off wholesale), but also Karen Mok songs.
It is almost impossible to discuss parts of this without spoilers, so I am declaring this review SPOILER FILLED. Don’t come crying to me if you keep reading and everything is ruined.
Sammi (Karen Mok Man-Wai) – Sammi is the burnt out non-love-believer who spends her day doing effects makeup at a haunted house where her father works. But things change when she meets Charles and this whole being an immortal thing happens. Sammi transforms into Ashura. Karen Mok has never looked more glamorous than when she’s flying around in Heavenly Dragon mode. Karen Mok pulls off the awesomely beautiful super hero outfit, as well as the schoolgirl outfit, and the goth outfit, and the normal attire. See Karen Mok in Task Force and Haunted Office.
Kenny Bee (Kenny Bee) – Kenny Bee plays Kenny Bee as Kenny Bee. And his involvement in his former band the Wynners is a plot point. He’s Sammi’s dad and is married to Scarlet. Kenny transforms into Naga.
Wen (William So Wing-Hong) – Wen is a super cabbie who wants to be actor, and spends the film trying to convince people of his acting skills and critiquing other actors. Wen transforms into Garuda.
Jade (Tan Wei-Wei) – A wannabe singer from an affluent family, Jade has an antagonistic relationship with her abusive and philandering father, and is often seen covered with soot. Jade transforms into Deva. Tan Wei-Wei is a singer who gained fame winning a televised singing competition.
Bing (Jaycee Chan Cho-Ming) – Bing transforms into Mahiraga, whose randomly determined form appears as deformed heroes from Hong Kong cinema: a one armed swordsman, someone from the Buddha’s Fist movies with a giant leg, and a hopping vampire. Jaycee Chan is also in Tracing Shadow.
Scarlet (Crystal Huang Yi) – Scarlet is a half crazy, fashioned obsessed spoiled young bride of Kenny, who was a classmate of his daughter Sammi. The two women have an antagonistic relationship because of this. Scarlet often is wearing different expensive and elaborate fashions. Scarlet transforms into Gandharva. Huang Yi is also in Treasure Inn.
Da Xiong (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) – A mute bun maker perpetually covered in flour. His wife has left him and his son, Xiaofang. Da Xiong transforms into Kinnara. Ekin Cheng is also in Future Cops.
Charles (Eason Chan Yik-Shun) – Charles is a ruthless hairdresser turned businessman. Can anyone melt his heart of stone? Charles transforms into Yaksha. His ever-present secretary is played by Stephy Tang Lai-Yan (All’s Well Ends Well 2011 and Nobody’s Perfect)
2011 Directed by Chan Hing-Kar and Janet Chun Siu-Jan Written by Chan Hing-Kar, Ho Miu-Kei, and Fung Ching-Ching
All’s Well Ends Well 2011 follows in the footprints of it’s four predecessors in presenting a series of couples who spend the majority of the film bickering about the nature of love and then end up all marrying or getting together at the end. The previous film a year prior reset the action to ancient China, but we’re back to modern day and with an almost entirely new cast, save Louis Koo and a few brief cameos (AngelaBaby, Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Stephy Tang Lai-Yan, and a billion others!) The story is a mix of several stereotypical lovers stories, with a healthy mix of fantasy scenes and goofy side characters to keep things going until everyone gets married.
Sammy (Louis Koo Tin-Lok) – Sammy is a famous makeup artist who obsesses over women, despite putting on an air of homosexuality. But all shells must crack, and Sammy meets his match in his personal assistant, Claire. Louis Koo continues to be in every movie ever made in Hong Kong. See him here in Mr. and Mrs. Incredible.
Claire (Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi) – Sammy’s personal assistant at the cosmetic company. She takes her job serious and doesn’t waste time chasing after money. Sammy defends her through all the crap she takes from other people, causing her to have feelings for him instead of the billionaire chasing after her. This is Cecilia’s big return to the screen after the Edison Chen photo scandal and taking a break to have some children. Between the time I watched this film and the time the review was published, Cecilia and her husband Nicholas Tse became embroiled in a huge divorce drama. Cecilia is also here in The Promise and My Kung Fu Sweetheart.
Clerk Chan (Raymond Wong Pak-Ming) – Clerk Chan is a billionaire businessman too busy to spend time with his girlfriend, so he gives her a cosmetics company to keep her busy until he has time to marry her. This backfires when Dream begins to spend all her time making the company work. Raymond Wong has been in all of the All’s Well, Ends Well films.
Dream (Yan Ni) – Clerk’s girlfriend who he puts in charge of a cosmetics company to keep her busy while he does business deals. Dream takes the job serious and becomes very involved in her company. Clerk must work to keep her heart.
Arnold Cheng (Donnie Yen Ji-Dan) – A cosmetics salesman and friendly rival to Sammy, who recruits him to his new company. Arnold is also friends with Mona. Donnie Yen co-directed Protege de la Rose Noire
Mona (Carina Lau Ka-Ling) – a writer who gets invested in her books and is friends with Arnold. Carina Lau was also in Detective Dee
So not every film I watch is filled with girls dressed as cats, giant monsters, or a Turkish take of American culture. Sometimes I end up watching many things that are just regular films. And even though Nobody’s Perfect is from Hong Kong, it is a pretty straightforward comedy involving body switching and learning life lessons that could easily have been churned out of the US in the late 80s when body switching movies like Big, 18 Again, Vice Versa, and the like were all the rage. Oddly enough, the title screen and credits effects also looks like it was straight out of late 1980’s Hong Kong. Somebody needs to update their title graphics, because it stood out pretty remarkably compared to most other recent Hong Kong films I have seen.
Stephy Tang and Kary Ng were both members of the Cookies, a 2002-era prefab Cantopop band that started out with nine girls, but was whittled downed to Kary Ng Ka-Wing, Miki Yeung, Theresa Fu Wing, and Stephy Tang and the group was renamed Mini-Cookies. Just watch out for the Mini-Cookie monster, as he will eat all your Cookies! Which one is more popular? Well, Kary Ng has huge images on Wikimedia Commons, while Stephy Tang only has very large images. Also Kary Ng has a cooler solo album cover, so Kary Ng wins.
Alexandra (Stephy Tang Lai-Yan) – is a high-powered entertainment industry insider Stephy Tang wrote a book in July 2009 that had numerous typos thanks to Chinese language phonetics. Then she caught Swine Flu (H1N1). Poor girl can’t catch a break.
Alexis (Kary Ng Yiu-Fei) – is completely opposite, as she is poor. She lives in a chicken coup! Luckily for her, there are no chickens living there. She and Alexandra hate each other. After Cookies, Kary Ng became lead vocalist for band Ping Pung, which has a cool name, in addition to her solo albums.
Norman (Sammy Leung Chi-Kin) –Alexis’s brother is dating the spoiled daughter of a family that runs a shop, where he has managed to get his sister a job. Both of them are orphans, so all they got is each other. He really puts up with a lot from his crazy girlfriend. Norman is comedian Sammy Leung Chi-Kin, who has finally gotten more popular in recent years.
Dad (Tin Kai-Man) –Dad is the leader of the family running the store and spends most of the film insulting everyone. Tin Kai-Man is probably best known in the west for parts in Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.