Golden Chicken 2 (2003)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2008-03-25
“Golden Chicken 2” works pretty well as a sequel to “Golden Chicken”, is better as a melodramatic comedy that doesn’t refer to the earlier movie but is at its very best when serving as a starring vehicle for Sandra Ng who has some truly transcendent moment as the aging but still desirable prostitute Kam. Sandra Ng is a very talented comedienne and a wonderful actress but in this movie is able to convey a riot of emotion with the slightest changes in her expression during a couple of extreme close-ups. She reminds us that underplaying a big scene is as effective as letting out all the emotional stops and that film acting is as much an art as it is a craft.

The scene occurs late in the movie. Jacky Cheung is Ma Ren Qun, her cousin. They aren’t blood relatives but we find that Ma lived with Kam’s family as a teenager when he had nowhere else to go—they grew up together. He has been both on top in Mainland China, attending the funeral of Chairman Deng at the People’s Hall and also cut quite low, having spent 66 days in prison. He is unreliable, mercurial, quick-witted and attractive. He asks Kam to marry him and she turns away, mirroring a scene from earlier in the film—and ten years earlier in the time the film covers—where she walked away from Ma in anger and disgust. He let her go then, being more interested sex and a free room for the night than in Kam herself. This time he begs her for one more chance, putting his hand on her arm. She doesn’t turn to face him—the camera focuses on her in a screen filling three-quarters profile shot as we hear Ma pleading with her to stay.

We can see the last twenty years of pain, guilt and anger in her face but we can also see that she is thinking about what her cousin is saying. Ng moves little more than her eyes—but what eyes they are!—in a real tour-de-force of movie acting. In holding back like this, showing raw but still repressed emotion, she forces the audience to identify with Kam and to be part of the agony she feels in making this decision. It was an exhilarating scene.

“Golden Chicken 2” is bookended by scenes that take place in 2046 and narrated by Kam, still striking looking after fifty years. Most of the action takes place during 2003, the year it was made and, not surprisingly, focuses on SARS and how it affected daily life among the millions in Hong Kong who didn’t catch the disease. Kam has inherited a diner from a former client but business is so bad that she is able to make payroll only be continuing to work as a hooker. She still has the heart of gold—24 carat gold—so that it somehow makes sense that she would trade sex for money so that she doesn’t have to fire her staff. Leon Lai is perfect as Dr. Chow Man Guang who tries to care for SARS patients while exhausted from his ceaseless labors. Instead of being treated as a hero he is shunned by everyone he meets, fearful of contracting the disease. Even when he is the only customer at Ma’s diner the staff forces him to eat outside—where he is joined by Kam. This is a well written and very well realized small but symbolic role, the doctor once again showing how Hong Kong and its people can deal with any crisis.

Since “Golden Chicken 2” was made in 2003 but set in 2046 the “history” of the Special Administrative Region is pretty sketchy, concentrating instead on the tenuous relationship between Ma and Kam, one that is rekindled every ten years. Their last meeting is the one described at the beginning of this review.

The very end of the movie has Andy Lau appear as a digital deus ex machina to reassure everyone that the future will be perfect. The fifty year limit on the quasi-independence of Hong Kong isn’t mentioned, only that Lau is negotiating with U. S. President Tom Cruise who wants to peg the value of the U.S. dollar to the Hong Kong dollar. There are oil field in Mongkok that are more productive than the North Sea or Gulf of Mexico fields, the unemployment rate has held steady at zero for five years and all medical care, school tuition and public services are free. The loser to whom Kam relates her story, played by Chapman To, decides to reunite with his wife. After all, they have tickets to the premiere of the movie “2046” which, Kam muses, the director has had some trouble finishing. She asks if stars like Tony Leung and Faye Wong will be there. A fitting ending to an enjoyable movie.

Reviewer Score: 7