‘Lost in Hong Kong’ made history as China’s highest-grossing domestic film
Like Ashley Madison subscribers, a bra designer pursues an elusive transgression in “Lost in Hong Kong” (Other name: LAC LOI O HONG KONG) a tamer but still agreeable follow-up to helmer-thesp Xu Zheng’s directorial debut.
The road-trip comedy “Lost in Thailand,” which made history as China’s highest-grossing domestic film until this past July. Trading the earlier film’s goofy fish-out-of-water gags for robust action acrobatics and fail-safe family drama. The laffer induces the warm-and-fuzzies as an ode to Hong Kong cinema and its role in mainland Gen-Xers’ sentimental coming of age.
Although it’ll take a miracle to dethrone reigning B.O. champ “Monster Hunt,”. The pic will still be heartily embrace at home and find a fair response abroad via day-and-date openings Stateside, in Blighty and Oz.
The pic completes a trilogy of road movies originating with “Lost on Journey” (2010), written and direct by the Hong Kong duo of Raymond Yip and Manfred Wong. Xu (“No Man’s Land”) and Wang Baoqiang (“Kungfu Jungle”). There were cast as an old couple, and reunite for “Lost in Thailand”.
All three comedies feature a stress-out businessman trying to shake off a gullible doofus, exploiting topical mainland wanderlust. That to take stock of core values — money, career and marriage, respectively.
Compare with “Journey,” which made no bones about its main character keeping a live-in mistress. “Lost in Hong Kong” (co-written by four scribes including Ning Hao’s wife, Xing Aina). That is so squeaky-clean that even the act of reminiscing about a half-finish kiss constitutes an adulterous thought crime.
Yet, while Xu is somewhat Judd Apatow-like in espousing monogamy. The film recalls “This Is 40” in its representation of fray married life, he boasts a canny understanding of male peccadilloes. And the film’s theme of coming to terms with one’s fail potential and wilte dreams contains subtle historical underpinnings. That will resonate especially with mainlanders in their 40s.
A prologue set in 1995 shows gauche art student Xu Lai (Xu, in a mop-like wig) dating head-turning beauty Yang Yi (Du Juan, “American Dreams in China”).
But they can’t even make it to first base. Xu winds up marrying Cai Bo (Vicki Zhao, “Dearest”), nickname Spinach, and channels his artistic impulses into bra designs for his father-in-law’s lingerie enterprise. Twenty years on, they enjoy a cushy marry life whose only disappointment. That is their failure to conceive a child — though not for lack of trying, as demonstrate by a scene. That crosscuts their bone-crunching bedroom gymnastics with a TV wrestling match.
However, when Yang, now a world-renown artist, invites Xu to her exhibition opening in Hong Kong, his heart goes aflutter. As often happens with such capers, the road to finish their “uncomplete first kiss”. That is strewn with obstacles, the biggest one being Xu’s filmmaker-wannabe brother-in-law Lala (Bao Beier). Who stalks him everywhere with a video camera.
Xu and Lala’s calamitous escapade get them embroil in a homicide, a la “Rear Window” and “Blow Up,”. Which escalates with run-ins with cops, gangsters and perverts. Ace Hong Kong action director Chin Ka-lok heats things up with technically seamless physical gambits that, despite their silliness, never descend into sloppy melees. The climax, in particular, lives up to expectations with a crazy yet totally tense crisis that vividly symbolizes the hazardous. Even lethal balancing act a marry man must make between fantasy and fidelity.