Sexy and Dangerous (1996)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-06-16
“Sexy and Dangerous” is a wonderful example of how Hong Kong filmmakers can switch genres in mid-scene, in this case from a screwball comedy a hard edged crime drama and still produce a captivating and coherent movie. While a formal and esthetic mess with incongruous and seemingly inappropriate situations coming out of nowhere—the brutal murder of a triad chieftain in a romantic comedy, a goofy switch of identities in a gangster film—the rapid changes of tone allow Wong Jing to solve a nagging problem. The problem is how to keep the different members of an ensemble cast occupied while keeping the movie from bogging down.

Ensemble casts can be tricky. Some are outstanding, including "M.A.S.H." and "Short Cuts" by Robert Altman. Others are not, including "Dr. T and the Women" and "The Company" also by Robert Altman. There have been masterpieces, such as "Twelve Angry Men" and train wrecks like the Blake Edwards remake of "The Man Who Loved Women". “Sexy and Dangerous shows Wong at his best: enough humor, heroism, action, skullduggery and pathos for two movies; a maniacally fast pace so that the viewer doesn’t have a chance to ask “what was that all about” before he is involved in the next outrageous episode; the stars in the cast upstaged by veteran actors with hundreds of roles in their credits. “Sexy and Dangerous makes fun of itself with a few postmodern winks and nods to the camera, the filmmaker and cast never take themselves seriously but are serious about delivering an entertaining ninety minutes. It is a badly flawed and very entertaining film.

Small parts of two scenes, one which is over in a flash the other which takes place at the edge of the frame and away from the focus of the action, show real attention to detail either by Wong Jing or those working with him. The first take place in the girl’s apartment. George's parents are being primed to replace Fai Chick's who are supposed to meet their prospective in-laws but Fai’s mother is in prison and her father is a fugitive. George’s parents, perfectly played by Wong Yat-Fei and Mimi Chu Mai-Mai are less than perfect substitutes. He is a producer of pornographic videos and she is a dealer (and a cheat) at a casino. The parents, George and the girls are having a rollicking time getting to know each other while Marianne Chan Miu-Ying (Fai) does a very funny silent bit. She is confused, a bit outraged, and obviously fearing the worst. Her facial expressions and body language let us know how much is at stake here—it is her fiance’s parents she is trying to fool—and also ground the scene and those that follow in that reality.

The other snippet of a scene may be one that action director Dion Lam Dik-On put together for actor Dion Lam Dik-On who plays Brother One’s consigliore, bodyguard and general factotum. Brother One is threatened by the leader of a rival gang who escalates the level of hostilities by pulling a pistol. Lam slides in front of Brother One and puts his hand in his jacket possibly ready to produce his own gun but clearly willing to be hit by a bullet meant for his boss. He also, for just a second, takes over the center of the frame and becomes the focus of the action, combining bravery and self-sacrifice in his character with a bit of sly grandstanding.

The movie is held together by the courtship of Marble by George, paired with the chaste but obsessive love for her by Brother One. To say that George is a low ranking triad soldier is like saying that plankton is low on the food chain while Brother One is a handsome, charismatic and wealthy gang leader. Brother One feels guilty about abandoning Marble in order to try to save his boss during an assassination attempt while George doesn’t feel guilty or much of anything besides horny although his basic goodness is shown when he refuses to take advantage of Marble after his parents slip an aphrodisiac into her (and his) tea. Marble is one of three happy go lucky prostitutes who don’t spend much time sleeping with customers but who are nevertheless paid well. The distaff side of things is completed by Van Chai, played by the incredibly talented Karen Mok, a very tough and very tattooed enforcer.

In addition to George’s parents other small but important and generally very funny roles are filled by Shing Fui-On who seems to be a tough but (as he puts it) “abnormal” triad leader who buys Marble’s services for an evening, Spencer Lam Seung-Yi as Wai’s father an impossibly pompous and narrow-minded school administrator and Lee Kin-Yan who plays Yan, George’s only underling who decides that the restaurant business is more profitable and less risky than being a gangster.

Reviewer Score: 7