The Heavenly Kings (2006)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2006-11-19
Summary: Thoroghly enjoyable look at HK's music industry...
Directed by first-timer Daniel Wu, The Heavenly Kings (referring to the four gods of Cantopop, Jacky Cheung, Andy Lau, Aaron Kwok and Leon Lai) is a "documentary" in the vein of the classic "This Is Spinal Tap." Actor Andrew Lin recruits three other actors (Daniel Wu, Terence Yin and Conroy Chan) to form the group "ALIVE" and they set out to conquer the HK pop music world as yet another boy band. There is one slight catch... no one in the band, save for Terence who released an album in Taiwan years ago, can sing a lick, and none can dance to save their lives. Other than being semi-well known actors, how are they going to survive in this new sphere of entertainment? After an initial disappointment with the underhanded music company, they decide to use the one outlet that has always been a thorn in their side and manipulate the media into their promotional tool.
"The Heavenly Kings" is definitely not a straight documentary, but neither is it a totally scripted film. The oft-used term "mockumentary" is probably the best way to describe this very enjoyable debut from Daniel Wu. There are many parts of the film that happened exactly as they are filmed, from the band's first press conference to the endorsements, press junkets and concerts that follow. In addition, there are scenes featuring actors playing roles that are fictitious (or at least I think they are). What is borderline brilliant about this film is the line between these two genres, documentary and comedy, is so slight that at any moment you are not sure what you are seeing is real or being acted. In some ways this could be frustrating, but I found it to be very thought-provoking. All four members of ALIVE, each having their own reasons to be a part of the band, are excellent in this film, especially Daniel Wu and Terence Yin. Daniel really wants to have the group be successful and becomes the spokesman for ALIVE on their short-lived tour. He also becomes the most frustrated as the other members start to slack off and lose interest. Terence, having been burned once by a record company, is completely jaded by the industry and decides to just take advantage of the situation wherever they go, indulging in parties and women throughout. Andrew Lin and Conroy Chan are simply trying to break out of their B-status in the film industry. Interspersed throughout the film are short snippets of interviews with top-billing music stars such as Jacky Cheung, Karen Mok, Nicholas Tse and Miriam Yeung who give their insight into the cut-throat and for the most part, completely unfair world of Cantopop. It all serves as a kind of expose on the Hong Kong music industry, where looks will get you further than any kind of inherent talent. Of course, this is true in any image related business, whether it be in Hong Kong or in Hollywood.
I really enjoyed this film and definitely recommend it on its fresh look at our image-obsessed world.

Reviewer Score: 8