A Moment of Romance (1990)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-07-30
“A Moment of Romance” has a script that might have been assembled by a guy with a clipboard and a list and not really written although it is credited to James Yuen Sai-Sang. With such A+ list personnel as Wong Jing and Johnny To in the planning (!) department it wouldn’t have been difficult. You can almost see it happening: “Let’s see, we have a handsome anti-hero, a gorgeous kidnap victim, an obsessed cop and a godfather who will be meeting his ancestors soon. We just need a righteous triad underboss who always backs up his little brothers, a sleazy triad guy who wants to take over before the old man is in the ground, clueless parents for the beautiful girl and a zany but loveable trio of aging whores who were and still are foster mothers to the anti-hero. Some explosions, car chases, motorcycle stunts and knife attacks will do for the action. Just before the final credits (at the 87 minute mark) make sure we have a hyper-romantic ending that will have the ladies in the audience crying.”

“OK—we have everything on my list—let’s go.”

Constructing a movie from off the shelf parts doesn’t mean it will be a bad movie—but the chances of making a good movie are pretty low and “A Moment of Romance” falls right in the middle. It is a mediocre effort with some high points: Andy Lau at his movie star hottest, the sublimely beautiful Wu Chien Lien in her first movie role, shot while she was still a college student, a very effective and possibly even original car chase at the start of the film which fits perfectly into the plot and searing portrait of decency and loyalty under pressure by Jue Tit-Woh.

These are diamonds in the rough, however, and the rough is just that. Beautiful though she was, Wu Chien Lien probably couldn’t act in 1990, although since she wasn’t tasked with anything beyond responding to cues, hitting her mark and looking lovely it is hard to tell. Her characters journey, from wealthy young lady about to emigrate to the victim of a kidnapping by a triad tough guy to a determined and tough rebel, all while dodging the police and a triad hit squad, would have taxed most actresses. She simply moved through the role which was all that could be expected.

Andy Lau played Wah Dee as a triad guy who is surprised when he finds a spark of humanity realizing that he can’t simply execute Jo Jo. The problem with Wah Dee is that he was all but indestructible. While it is a given in Hong Kong movies that both heroes and villains can suffer enough punishment to kill ten lesser men, Wah has at least one resurrection too many. He goes to bed having been stabbed in the gut and beaten with clubs, bleeding and his face cut to pieces. He wakes up the next morning looking...well, looking like Andy Lau just rising from a good nights sleep. This regenerative ability makes the beatings that he gets seem much less dire—he keeps coming back without a scratch or scar so they must not be that bad.

The lyrical interludes that show the growing love between Jo Jo and Wah Dee are backed by syrupy Cantopop ballads. They last much too long and occur much too often. Trumpet isn’t a very well realized villain—he is a punk with no class, as uncharismatic a criminal leader as one could find. To be effective a bad guy needs to be energetic, to have an edge—to be perversely attractive even though we acknowledge he is evil. As Trumpet, Tommy Wong is more annoying than anything else. Ng Man-Tat’s Rambo was simply on the screen for too long—an interesting character who wore out his welcome after we saw his unchanging act a few times. Jo Jo’s parents were badly drawn caricatures; Mom worried more about the new house in Canada than her daughter, Dad completely under her thumb. Wah’s three foster mothers, all of them aging hookers with hearts of gold were incongruous—their parts could have been cut completely without losing anything.

The first car chase was very well planned and executed. It showed that Wah was a brave and resourceful triad soldier and an outstanding driver and was actually interesting enough to keep my attention, not something that car chases generally do.

By no means terrible but not really recommended.
Reviewer Score: 4