EXPECTATIONS: The worst film of 2018.
When one thinks of female filmmakers from Hong Kong, you think of people like Ann Hui, who’s a fantastic filmmaker with films focusing on society in Hong Kong eg. Night and Fog, A Simple Life, Our Time Will Come and others. One could also think of Mabel Cheung, a wonderful filmmaker who makes passionate and graceful dramas like An Autumn’s Tale and Echoes of the Rainbow.
But if there’s one Hong Kong female filmmaker that people would like to forget, it’s Barbara Wong. Starting off promisingly with the hilariously open documentary Women’s Private Parts and the wholesome comedy/drama Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat, she stumbles slightly with dopey comedies like Protege de la Rose Noire and Six Strong Guys. And then came Wonder Women, a film so bad that the egregious product placement actually comes across as a relief to the film itself.
She hasn’t really recovered since, although she’s found financial success in China with awfully manipulative melodramas like The Allure of Tears and The Stolen Years, the latter being so terrible that not only it plagiarizes better melodramas like A Moment to Remember, The Vow and Million Dollar Baby; it also plagiarized this YouTube video. No, that last one is not a joke.
Continuing on from catering the China rooster by petting and rubbing it in an abrasive fashion, we have the 2014 comedy/drama Girls (not to be confused with Kenneth Bi’s Girl$), a film about female relationships that is a rip-off of the Tiny Times franchise. In an interview promoting Girls, Wong says that “It’s difficult to make a film about female relationships. No matter if it’s a gossiping or fighting scene, you have to make it real.”
Well, enter into Girls VS Gangsters, a sequel (no, really!) to the 2014 film. Originally meant for release in 2016 and delayed several times until it finally arrived (dumped?) onto cinemas in March of 2018. Will this film be a return to form for Barbara Wong? Will this film actually be empowering for women? Will this film be realistic in portraying female relationships?
Continuing where Girls left off, Xiwen (Ivy Chen) announces that she’s finally getting married to Qiao Li (originally played by Shawn Yue, but is absent for some reason) and Kimmy (Fiona Sit) persuades her to take a fun bachelorette trip to Vietnam, where the third member of the group, the filmmaker Xiaomei (originally played by Yang Zishan, but is absent for some reason), is supposedly working on a project there.
The first obstacle for Kimmy’s plan arrives in the shape of Xiwen’s other best friend (and Kimmy’s mortal enemy), Jialan (Ning Chang) and her fiancé’s teenage sister, Jingjing (Wang Shuilin). Things quickly get worse on their first night in Vietnam, where Xiaomei has arranged for them to go to the extravagant house party of a wealthy mobster (Tran Bao Son).
After a wild night at the mansion that sees Kimmy eat a dead scorpion and end up in the bedroom of her host (with no prurience, because China), Xiwen, Kimmy and Jialan wake up the next morning to find themselves naked on a deserted beach, with Jingjing nowhere to be found. Worse still, Xiwen has an ugly new tattoo on her back, while the other two are handcuffed to a trunk full of gold bars that they’re soon told by a mysterious caller to spend.
And it gets worse and worse and worse. Girls VS Gangsters is one of the worst films that his reviewer has ever seen. No joke. And yes, for those who are curious, this film is worse than Benny Chan’s Meow, which this reviewer has said was the cinematic equivalent of ultraviolent dysentery. Girls VS Gangsters is the cinematic equivalent of drowning in a cesspool of vomit WHILST having ultraviolent dysentery.
But as one that likes to live life optimistically, let’s begin with the positives. Yeah, there are none whatsoever. To put it mildly, let’s begin with the problems. Remember what director Barbara Wong said about female relationships having to be real? Well here in Girls VS Gangsters, the characters converse with each other while using gold bars as currency, they make rape “jokes” to each other, one being “if you can’t keep this secret, you’ll be raped 100 times”; the characters get attacked by Vietnamese gangsters; they all talk about men despite this being a female empowerment film; apparently all of this is real.
And then there’s the filmmaking. What filmmaking? The green-screen and CGI utilized in this film is grotesquely cheap; there is no story whatsoever, as it consists of nothing happening very loudly for two excruciating hours. And there are many filmmaking gaffes here that is so unbelievable that they are still on-screen. Some examples include the use of slow-motion so bad that it stutters; a case of bad ADR that is so noticeable that it comes from a character whose mouth is closed; action scenes where none of the actresses are even on-screen together or not on location at all; it just goes on and and on.
The “comedy” is absolutely ear-piercingly terrible, even by China-market standards. The high point of the humour is apparently flatulence that not only happens three times throughout the film, but is actually a major plot point. Apparently, eating a deadly scorpion is funny. Vomiting on a corpse while it’s in the coffin is the height of hilarity and gay characters are downright hysterical because they’re gay. There’s even a God of Gamblers parody in the film that’s worse than anything in From Vegas to Macau III.
And speaking of China-market standards, there’s a cameo from boxer Mike Tyson. Yes, the Mike Tyson. The same one that was convicted of rape and is registered as a sex offender is starring in a film directed by and starring women. And he’s the best actor in this thing. If that’s not offensive enough, he’s portrayed as half African-American and half-Korean, who loves Korean dramas. No, really, that actually happens. It’s blatantly clear that the only reason his character is half-Korean is that no Chinese woman on film would ever like him unless he was. And it all leads to an embarrassing scene referencing the Korean drama, Descendants of the Sun. And there’s the racism that if you’re not Chinese, then all the races of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos are absolutely interchangeable, from the appearances, customs and even the geography.
And if they are interchangeable, so are the actresses. Fiona Sit, Ning Chang and Ivy Chen have all done good work in prior films. But in Girls VS Gangsters, they all play characters that are all narcissistic, petulant, sociopathic, manipulative, greedy, selfish and morally ugly shells of a human being that the audience will be begging for the usher to hand them barf bags and oxygen masks while seeing their performances.
And let’s get into the stupid moments in the “plot” of the film. How does one of the characters take a dump without taking her pants off? How do the characters wear on Vietnamese clothing while they are handcuffed? If the characters were naked in the beach while being cuffed, where did they get their phones? Apparently, the characters can skydive without proper training and while consuming alcohol. For a character who wants to intentionally lose in blackjack, she clearly doesn’t know that nothing in blackjack can stop you from losing!
There’s so much more to gauge, criticize and rant about this film like the horrific musical number in the credits, but this review will never end. Many people say that excessive watching of films of the horror and action genre can lead to people turning into violent, psychopathic and angry beings. No, they don’t. Films like Girls VS Gangsters turn people into violent, psychopathic and angry beings because it is so tortuously poor, that you can feel your well-being and life force being sucked away seeing that humanity actually made a film like this and released it in cinemas.
It’s a film that’s so bad that Shawn Yue and Yang Zishan and even the constant cameo-appearing Barbara Wong decided not to appear in it, despite their characters making appearances. Everyone in this film should repeatedly smash themselves in the head with a gold bullion and be thoroughly ashamed.
P.S – Girls VS Gangsters was released in cinemas on International Women’s Day. If that’s not offensive, I don’t know what is.
SCORE: ABSOLUTE ZERO!!
Cast: Fiona Sit, Ivy Chen, Ning Chang, Mike Tyson, Wang Shuilin, Fan Tiantian, Tran Bao Son, Elly Tran
Director: Barbara Wong
Screenwriters: Barbara Wong, Daryl Doo, Yingyan Hou, Zheng Shanyu