Title: Mr and Mrs Player
Director: Wong Jing
Starring: Chrissie Chow, Matt Chow, Pang Ho-Cheung, Chapman To
Plot: Feng Shui master, occasional con-man and general ladies’ man Carson (To) has never been in a stable relationship, until he meets his match in the veterinarian and fellow player Chi-Ling (Chow). Now challenged with going 100 days without any sexual contact to win her affection, the games are truly on as Carson is determined to in win her affection.
Review: Certainly one of the more random films I've watched as of late, while unbeknown to me upon entering into it that it would would go some way to filling that Stephen Chow shaped void in my life….seriously has it really been 10 years since his last film??
Playing like the Hong Kong version of “40 Days and 40 Nights” the film best remembered for the scene in which Josh Hartnett’s character was raped by his ex-girlfriend! Thankfully there is nothing so morally questionable here, while the differences in censorship do mean that this was a sex comedy very different than any of its western counterparts, as while Eastern censors frown on nudity, but seem pretty much willing to let anything outside of that slide which is something director Jing certainly runs with here to create a truly filthy comedy without a single moment of nudity.
This film however is very much a showcase for the talents of To, who essentially steals the whole movie with a frenzied and energetic performance that dominates the whole film and despite my reservations about a portly actor convincingly playing this kind of role were quickly evaporated within the first ten minutes of this film as somehow he makes it work. At the same time it could be down to how relentless his style of comedy is, as he combines frequent costume changes (and boy are there some questionable costumes here) slapstick and sheer hyper activeness to sell the role of Carson, who easily could have come off as a truly despicable and unlikeable character in the hands of another actor, especially with his severe lack of moral compass which sees him more than happy to con, lie and swindle anyone to get his own way.
On the flip side of things Cheung really mixes things up as Carson’s female counterpart, even if it is a performance that relies on her generally looking pretty and doing pretty much nothing else. Refreshingly though her character is not chastised her dating habits and instead viewed as on a level playing field as Carson, even if the naughtiest of her antics is being on a date with two men at the same time, but at least she’s never seen as being slutty for such antics, a view which Hollywood much like the rest of society is to get behind. Having set Carson the herculean task of surviving 100 days without sex, she certainly doesn’t make it easy on him as she installs a glass divider in her bed (complete with kissing hatch) to ensure that he cannot try anything. To add to Carson’s pain Chi-Ling also recruits the assistance of her equally stunning flatmates to further torment him as she dress provocatively, eat suggestive food and generally find ever more inventive ways to torture him to the point where he even has to get a chastity belt fitted.
The tone of the film is surreal to say the least, especially when so many scenes don’t make the blind bit of sense yet as the viewer you still find yourself happy to except, such as a flashback to Carson’s school days which sees Carson and his friends still being played by the same actors with no attempt being made to make them look any younger. At the same time the randomness is only further cranked up when Carson and Chi-Ling watch a film showing highlights from their relationship only to use clips from the film itself!?! Perhaps its because these scenes are so funny that you find yourself able to look past things such as logic, which is something this film really is lacking much like any grasp of reality. Could there be any other reason to explain why its so easy to accept a scene were male cast members dress themselves up as various sexual organs.
Alas if only the randomness ended here. For some reason Director Jing feeling that perhaps things are already not crazy enough also throws in sub-plots involving Ghosts and demonic possession, with the latter somehow being part of his job as a Feng Shui master which if your excuse my ignorance I personally thought was more to do with positioning your furniture than anything involving being an exorcist. However it is hard to fault these scenes like so much of the aforementioned randomness as like those scenes they are played with such fun and energy by Chow that you won’t even question what they are doing in a romantic comedy.
While the first half of the film is a frenzied blast, the second half suffers as it becomes increasingly bogged down in the romantic aspects of Carson’s relationship with Chi-Ling and in particular their perhaps slightly unbelievably fast move to get engaged thankfully due to the short running time this doesn’t ultimately detract too much from the film, even if it does cause it to drag noticeably towards the end.
Overall while this might be a romantic comedy unlike any other you have seen it is still a fun if disposable experience, while providing yet another reminder of why Asian cinema is still frequently the source of truly inventive cinema.