Golden Chicken (2002)

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 02/19/2011
Summary: remember... work hard and you'll eat tart...

when kum (sandra ng) gets trapped in an atm booth with james (eric tsang), a desperate man who is wielding a knife, she decides to diffuse the situation by telling him the story of how she became the "golden chicken". in hong kong, "chicken" is a slang term for 'prostitute'; kum tells james the story of her life as a chicken, going through life in hong kong from the late 1970s up to the late '90s...

this was the film that made me really love sandra ng as an actress. she's often a figure of fun or derision in the minds of a lot of hong kong film fans, many people despising her work. still, i'll happily declare that sandra is probably my favourite hong kong actress and this is a real showcase for her. sure, samson chiu could be criticised for giving kum's life too much of a happy-go-lucky quality and glossing over the negatives of both her occupation and events which are only very briefly touched upon in the film, but one would really have to make an effort to dislike the film.

oh, and as well as ng and tsang, there's small roles for andy lau, big tony leung, eason chan, chapman to, hu jun, alfred cheung and crystal tin, which is a pretty high cameo count.

any how, i re-watched this after not having seen it for a few years and enjoyed it as much as i did the first time i saw it. in fact, i was amazed at just how quickly the 106 minutes flew by. so, a sweet little film, with a great central performance, from one of hong kong's best.

great stuff.

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 07/29/2007

Anyone who watches “Golden Chicken” and doesn’t fall in love with Kum played by Sandra Ng must be a hard-hearted person indeed. While Kum’s life as a prostitute in Hong Kong is no more “real” than that depicted by Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” it is grounded in the authenticity of an individual dealing with overwhelming social, political and economic forces. It is also a love letter to Hong Kong (or perhaps a postcard from the city) concentrating on the resilience and fortitude of its residents who must deal with the Handover, the Asian financial crisis, bird flu and other catastrophic problems. The movie is relentlessly upbeat—even the repossession of Kum’s furniture is played for laughs—and the issues of death, disease, poverty and homelessness are touched on briefly, made touchingly poignant and then dismissed.

I thought of two other movies while watching “Golden Chicken”: “Comrades, Almost a Love Story” and “One Night in Mongkok”. While very different, both from “Golden Chicken” and each other, each of them are related to it structurally or thematically. “Comrades” takes place in the decade before “Golden Chicken” and during some of the same time. It includes the worldwide financial meltdown of 1987 and the AIDS epidemic. The Handover is something that will happen in the future although many people in both movies deal with it in the same way, through emigration. “Comrades” does a better job of showing how events that played out on the international stage affected citizens of Hong Kong even though the two main characters are from Guangdong and use the city as a staging point for their leap into the wider world.

In “One Night in Mongkok” we also see Hong Kong through the eyes of a prostitute, Dan Dan. She would be one of the “northern chicks” that become a problem for Kum and her co-workers but her life is far removed from the hostess clubs where they work. A hard working young woman from the countryside, Dan Dan sees only the filth and squalor of her part of Hong Kong, an area that doesn’t exist in “Golden Chicken”.

But enough of what “Golden Chicken” isn’t. Much more interesting is what it is, a movie for people who love Hong Kong. Sandra Ng gives a performance that is a clinic in comedy acting; the writing is sharp and funny; the cameos by a significant part of Hong Kong film royalty are terrific; Eric Tsang is, as usual, the perfect sad sack and the structure, while it has been a zillion times, is made fresh by the framing device which has Kum and James Bon trapped in an ATM lobby during a power cut.

A lovely example of the cheerful indelicacy of the movie happens when Kum has an order of food delivered to her apartment. The delivery guy, faced with the fantasy of underpaid and undertipped delivery guys the world over, actually turns down her invitation to come into her barely furnished love nest and receive payment in service instead of cash. This would be the absolute nadir of a prostitute’s career, unable to trade for HK$37.50 in food. Immediately afterwards, though, Andy Lau slides through the screen of her television set to deliver banal (but still accurate) customer service tips. The payoff is that Andy, one of most popular and charismatic figures in East Asia, will always be around to offer help and advice when it is most needed—and if not him then some other deus ex machina type.

The way the outside world impinges upon Hong Kong is represented by news clips on television which contrast Chris Patten, the last British governor of the Crown Colony, with Tung Chee Hwa, the first PRC Chief Executive of the Special Administrative Region. Tung sounds completely ineffectual as he discussed the Asian financial crisis and its effects on Hong Kong, saying that it was a special challenge for him but looking as if he had no idea how to rise to this challenge. Another indication is the sudden influx of prostitutes from the Mainland, “northern chicks with bad Cantonese, big boobs and bad makeup” who crowd out the local girls. Tony Leung, as Professor Chan, is last shown teaching Mainland girls how to pronounce Cantonese but everything they say still sounds like a sexual invitation. I couldn’t tell from the way the girls were repeating his examples but he may have been showing them how to mispronounce Cantonese terms to make it clear that they were available. Either way it was a very funny and very short scene and one in keeping with the buoyant and always cheerful tenor of the film.

There are a lot of reasons to recommend “Golden Chicken”.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/24/2003
Summary: One of the better movies of 2002!!

After hearing all positive reviews on this movie i had to see what all the hype was about!!

Golden Chicken is the life of Sandra Ng as a woman of the night or the oldest profession. Of course when you see Sandra you go "are you sure" as she may not be the most beautiful gal but she sure can play a part. Sandra Ng once again shows how versitle a actress she is. She steals the show off everybody but then again the focus is on here.

The story starts in the present but flashes back to the past events of her life. This becomes interesting as it mentions from time to time certain bad periods in hk history like Stockmarket crash and how that effected people. For once it is obvious people have spent time working on this good script as its keeps the audience interested thoughout the movie

A great supporting cast which includes Tong Leung Ka fai, Andy Lau, Eric Tsang and EAson Chan!!

Though not as funny as i thought it would be, it still tells a simple sotry to great effect!!


Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 04/07/2003
Summary: Saccharine Treatment

"Golden Chicken," the showcase for Sandra Ng, is about a prostitute's history, from the late 70s to the present. In many ways paralleling the struggles of Hong Kong cinema over the same time period. Representations of time and place are provided through Hong Kong television, where we see images of Chow Yun-Fat and Jackie Chan in their youthful days to indicate the past. Directed in a most politically correct and simplistic fashion, acknowledging the events but avoiding any expression of opinion on topics such as AIDS and Tiananmen Square, Samson Chiu glosses over the pain and suffering of a whore's life by using comedy. Sandra Ng's bittersweet memories do not hide the loss of friends and relations over the years as she plies her trade. Most incredulously, Sandra doesn't get physically abused or roughed up as a hooker with a heart of gold. Most displays of discomfort are attributed instead to economic downturns, including the return of Hong Kong to China and the current worldwide recession.

The flash-in-the-pan characters are very sketchy, including Tony Leung Ka-Fai, playing one of Sandra's customers. Due to the lack of any true supporting roles, "Golden Chicken" is a lightweight piece of cotton candy that leaves everything sugarcoated, negating any authentic value other than specious symbolism. "Golden Chicken" becomes hard to swallow with such veneer character portrayals and happy-go-lucky events of the past, which are all presented as pristine and shiny, without any traces of the dirt and grimness of reality. All of the scenes to demonstrate loss or any heartfelt emotions seem hollow. Most of the movie leaves the empty pit within us yearning to be filled with more depth and conviction of character than what we evidence on screen.

If you can fathom life as seen through a pair of rose-colored glasses, the premise and the presentation of "Golden Chicken" will provide an amusing way to spend the time. If you think the above is more hokum than history, then you'll be sorely disappointed with such a saccharine treatment of life in Hong Kong over the last several decades.

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 04/05/2003
Summary: Some blasts from the past

Finally after 20 years of hard work as HK's most popular popstar, Andy Lau receives a role as himself in Golden Chicken. This movie utilizes old songs, including the themesong to TVB's LOOKING BACK TO ANGER, the most watched TV series of all time. Sandra Ng's strong performance only reminded me why I adore her in the first place.

Golden Chicken a good film, but putting it alongside Hero and Infernal Affairs? It's definitely not as good as Hero, and it's probably not as good as Infernal Affairs.

By the way, I couldn't believe it was Felix Wong who played Richard. I remembered that Chen Kuan Tai was in a recent movie (turned out to be Era of Vampires), so I thought he had played Richard. What a terrible mistake.


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 03/28/2003

I had big hopes for this movie after very positive word of mouth, so maybe this is why I am left mainly disappointed by it. The movie feels kind of thrown together, wasting minimal time on set up and leaping straight into stories of one prostitutes turns of luck through the decades.

The film is fairly raunchy, dealing with the life and work of a prostitute in a pretty frank and open way, though it could certainly be accused of being a rather sanitised look at the job. For the most part, Sandra Ng has a jolly good time selling herself to the various men that her job introduces her to.

The years fly by pretty quickly, with the stories from the early parts of her career being mostly short and fluffy, as Sandra and her fellow chickens make a lot of money and provide a much appreciated service to the community. It's not long before we're in the 90's and pretty soon we hit 1997, which is where things slow down and fortunes change. For the remaining years up to 2003, the focus shifts to the economic situation in Hong Kong, and it paints a remarkably bleak picture for the SAR. I knew things were bad in HK since the handover, but this movie really brings home the situation the people are in since the British left. Ultimately there is a message of hope, suggesting that HK people have to evolve to meet the new economic situation they're in, and that if they can do so then life will start to improve again.

Sandra Ng is great as the titular Golden Chicken, giving the kind of performance that few actresses in HK would dare. The performances from most of the rest of the cast feel rather insincere though, like they are only there as a favour (which perhaps they were). Sandra has quite a few stories to tell, but ultimately most of them aren't that profound or especially amusing. There were places where I laughed, but the comedy was much tamer than I anticipated.

Perhaps the movie is one that is best appreciated by a HK audience, as the main message is one of understanding and sympathy for their economic situation. I usually don't subscribe to the notion that cinema does not travel well, but this may be a case where it is true.

Obviously the other reviewers liked it a lot though, so perhaps its just that I was expecting something other than what I got, and that's why it left me feeling not particularly satisfied.

Reviewed by: Sasami
Date: 03/19/2003
Summary: Winning Recipe

How could this recipe not work? You take a great actress, add some fabulous cameos, sprinkle in a dash of nostalgia, and whip it up with a bit of wit... and voila! You have "Golden Chicken".

Like the reviewer before me, I also felt it was refreshing to finally see a movie made geared towards the local audience. Hong Kong is such a unique place and it was nice to see it and its people the center of attention for once.

Nostalgia reigns supreme in the movie; the 80's flashbacks were hilarious, as well as a bit wistful. It was nice to revisit the time of bad hairstyles and neon green miniskirts, and to remember the opulence and wealth of the decade.

Sandra Ng did a great job for the most part. She was a tad slapstick in some scenes, but toned it down nicely to give her character some depth. The cameos by various actors were giggle-inducing, as a few of them played against type and didn't mind poking fun at their own macho images.

Although the economy isn't showing many signs of recovery, this movie makes a vallant effort to remind us to keep smiling, even when Andy Lau mysteriously appears in your living room and tells you to work that sexy moan. :)

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 03/11/2003

Released at the end of last year, this comedy may have been a bit overshadowed by the likes of Infernal Affairs and Hero, which is unfortunate, as this is actually one of the most refreshing and hilarious comedies I've seen from HK in a while. The film is a showcase for Sandra Ng, who gives a colourful performance that is both over the top in a very funny way and yet nuanced and quite touching.

She plays Kum, a hooker trapped in an ATM booth with a desperate, unemployed sob (Eric Tsang) who initially tried to rob her of her last 100 dollars. She spends the night telling him her life story, which turns out to be a funny and bittersweet reflection of HK's rise and fall from the early eighties to the big spending heydays a decade later and then finally to the market crash and the ensuing economic hardships after the real estate bubble had burst.

Punctuated by cameos from big name stars like Andy Lau and Tony Leung Kar-Fai, the movie features a series of scenes that are set against the backdrop of cultural and political highlights of the last twenty years, held together by Sandra Ng's wonderful performance -- it's refeshing to see a movie so intentionally focused on local stories and issues at a time when so many other HK films have opted for being bland generic formula pictures aimed at an international audience. And while I doubt HK will experience a miraculous recovery similar to the happy end of the film, it was still heartwarming to see.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 02/17/2003
Summary: Recommended

Of 2002's three big Christmas season movies- the others, of course, being Hero and Infernal Affairs- this is, surprisingly, in some ways the best. I wouldn't have expected it of a racy Sandra Ng vehicle, but I left the theater more thoroughly satisfied than after watching the other two, even if they are more to my normal taste.

As the comedy one would expect, it's plenty good enough. A lot of jokes I got, some I didn't, but Golden Chicken is certainly a good time, and the audience certainly seemed to appreciate it. There are a couple spots where the laughs fade for a while, but this movie is funnier than most.

Aside from that, the film is also a refreshingly LOCAL film in a time when all too many films are striving for international appeal. It is one of the most intimate looks at Hong Kong and its people in recent memory, and it pulls it off with biting humor and genuine feeling.

It's also well produced, with an overall accomplished look. While some of the fashions worn by Ng and her co-workers are a bit hard on the eyes, the movie isn't. Oh, and Ng gives one of her best performances ever and could've carried the movie without the heaps of cameos, most of which are actually funny, not just there for their own sake.

I don't want to overhype this movie too much, but I really hope it doesn't get lost among the excitement about the other, more macho films this season, because Golden Chicken, believe it or not, may just have more to offer than the Oscar-nominated Hero or the box-office king Infernal Affairs. Don't overlook it.

Reviewed by: SINNERMAN
Date: 01/11/2003
Summary: One of the best Hong Kong Movies in the last 5 years!

You may be teased by its torrent of HK celeb cameos or its rampant sex comedy. But you should definitely go see “Golden Chicken” for Sandra Ng's tour-de-force performance alone. Trust me, it’s worth every cent of the ticket price.

Long overshadowed by her comedic persona, this movie proved once and for all the intuitive range and dramatic depths Sandra is capable of conjuring up. Her work here should be grouped in the same leagues as such screen luminaries like Anita Mui and Maggie Cheung. (In an ideal world that is)

The film itself is not bad either. Straddling between laugh-out-loud farce and top-rated melodrama, this sometimes-biting satire could also be viewed as a gentler, nostalgic trip for any Canto-pop fans 25yrs or older. And what a strangely moving experience this has been?

To illustrate the vast canvas of time, we were presented with glimpses on some of HK pop culture’s most memorable songs and images from the last 2 decades. Through these salient excerpts, we too were able to relive those times passed by and reflect upon our own individual lives.

On a deeper thematic level, “Golden Chicken” is also a film filled with heart and care for Hong Kong and its people. Its empathy and optimism for the collective soul of the SAR only serves to amplify its dramatic artistry and social relevance in these trying times. This is a very special film indeed.

In my opinion, “Golden Chicken” is one of Hong Kong's best-made gems in the last 5 years. So what are you waiting for? Go buy a "Golden Chicken" ticket. Laugh and cry with it. Learn from it, embrace it. And in no time, Be charmed by its movie magic.