Reviewed by: mrblue
Taking place shortly before the tulmutuous events leading up to World War II, The Twilight of the Forbidden City tells the story of Loy (Max Mok), a eunuch who finds himself an outsider after the royal family is thrown out of power. Loy has made the most of things, even going so far as to having a "marriage" with Fung (Carrie Ng) and her son after her husband (Felix Wong) leaves to join the revolution.
Reviewer Score: 5
Loy's life takes a turn when he meets up with the Elder Eunuch (Roman Tam), who is so impressed by Loy's singing voice that he "invites" him to stay at the royal palace. Even though he loves Fung, Loy's old ties cannot be severed, and he reluctantly leaves. However, after accidentally meeting up with Fung's husband and hearing about the revolution, Loy's loyalties are put to the test.
Overall, The Twilight of the Forbidden City is a decent drama that probably would have been better if Max Mok wasn't the lead. He seemed to get a lot of chances to become a leading man back in the early 1990's, but none of the attempts worked. Mok never seemed to have neither the slick moves, charisma, or just raw acting talent which turns actors into stars.
The other actors do a good job, but there's a feeling that perhaps they were tired of doing these sorts of costume dramas (which were glutting HK theatres at the time) so they don't exactly do anything extraordinary, or even above average. The same could be said for the crew; the cinematography, music, and editing are compentently done, but nothing to get excited about.
The film-makers seem to have realized this early into production, and so they tried injecting some shock factor into the movie, most notably a torture sequence where a woman is force-fed burning coals. It certainly does its' job in making the audience squeamish, but ultimately, it comes off as a cheap move to try and elevate this picture from being the truly average historical drama it is.
[review from www.hkfilm.net]
Reviewed by: STSH
Summary: Shocking and cruel
.... in the true sense. This was one of the first HK films I saw on television. Dealing as it does with the life story of a court eunuch, it presents a mixture of glamour and horror. The cinematography and the look of this movie is gorgeous. The costumes alone are a feast for the eye.
Reviewer Score: 6
The glamour also serves to increase the shock and horror. For example, a girl is singing for the elder court eunuch. The song she sings is not suitable and has clearly offended the eunuch. But he gives her ten dollars then, without changing his rather cool expression, shoots her dead.
The images become more disturbing as the story progresses. For example, one of the cruelest sights I have ever seen in HK cinema is where the same elder eunuch holds open the mouth of a prisoner, plunging into the open mouth a hot rock. Another scene shows the younger eunuch being raped by a fat general, and Max Mok's anguished expression, of one who has been put upon all his life, says it all.
I find this film difficult to watch, even though I have seen it two or three times. The acting is top-notch but the cruelty I can bear only with clenched teeth. You have been warned.
Sprawling and expensive historical star vehicle for Max Mok, with a huge supporting cast . Loi Hei, a eunuch and former court official, has become a hawker of plum soup. He cares for a pretty young woman and her young son in a man-and-wife relationship (including one very short sex scene !). Life is pleasant, but two events change that. The woman's husband (in Canton) sends for her, and Loi is unwittingly drawn into league with a small cadre of patriots, fighting the Japanese and their intended Manchu puppets in early the 1930s. Young woman doesn't want to leave, but Loi tricks her into going, and screams in agony after she leaves. Loi is then convinced by a high class prostitute (Carrie Ng) and her frustrated lover and richshaw driver (Roman Tam) to accept the offer of a palace eunuch to get his old job back. Thus, he'd have access to the royal Jade Seal and stop it falling into Japanese hands, and therefore legitimize their power. Carrie's character develops an almost immediate affection for Loi, creating lasting friction between him and Roman's character. Despite the strong supporting cast, glorious and colourful photography, and Loi Hei's essentially weak character, Mok is allowed to dominate almost every scene, is given every opportunity to show his full dramatic range, mostly with success. The white-faced chief eunuch (actor's name unknown), a big fan of opera, is cold and vile. He is ruthless and easily offended (e.g. when a prostitute sings an opera tune with anti-royalist lyrics, he first gives her madam a ten dollar tip, then shoots the girl), yet he protects Loi Hei, even when Loi causes him to massively lose face. Villains and vile characters abound in this movie. Kent Cheng as the fat, bi-sexual general, is particularly slimy. There are numerous scenes of extreme cruelty. Several rapes (including one sodomy), a soldier's hand is cut off because his nails are not clean, soldiers are used as targets to test the accuracy of new cannons. Carrie's character probably suffers the most. She's shot at, knifed, the chief eunuch shoves a hot rock shoved in her mouth (a ghastly scene I will NEVER forget), is thrown into a rat-infested dungeon, and finally (and unwittingly) poisoned by Loi and dies an agonised and screaming death. Overall, though this is an extremely well made and colourful film, it is overwhelmingly grim and very, very depressing (which means it's probably a true war story).