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Original Title:
Xiang Gang zhi zao

Hong Kong 1997

Drama, Crime

Fruit Chan

Sam Lee
Neiky Yim Hui-Chi
Wenders Li
Amy Tam Ka-Chuen
Doris Chow Yan-Wah
Carol Lam Kit-Fong
Siu Chung
Wai-Chung Wu
Chan Sang
Chan Tat-Yee

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Made in Hong Kong

Story: Autumn Moon (Sam Lee) is raised in a poor family and has quit school at an early age. Just like most of the boys in his age he earns some extra money by working as a debt collector. However, Moon isn't the one who likes to blindly follow the orders of a triad boss, and thus he isn't part of any organisation. Instead he works as a "freelancer" for boss Wing (Chan Sang). One of his assignments makes Moon clash with Ping (Neiky Yim), a young girl, for whom he slowly starts to get feelings for. Unfortunately, Ping has cancer and is in desperate need of a new kidney.
Moon decides to accept a contract killing in order to pay for Ping's operation and even wants to donate his own kidney. Eventually, Moon realizes that he hasn't got the heart to do the murder. Moreover, he believes that the ghost of the girl Susan (Amy Tam), who commited suicide some days back, haunts him. Moon's dimwit friend Sylvester (Wembers Li) found two letters in her dead hands, which Moon carries with him since that day. As time goes by Moon starts to understand the reasons for the girl's decision to take her own life, as the world he lives in is a dark and cruel one, in which youth has no perspective. After he hasn't only been left by his father, but also by his mother, and subsequent to the deaths of some of his good friends, Moon decides to take revenge on the world of adults...

Review: "Made in Hong Kong" is an Independent Film that certainly falls in the category "art house". Director Fruit Chan ("Dumplings") had to use pieces of film he had collected from the end of reels during his time as an assistant director in order to get the material to make his film. The end product is a low-budget production, which, however, stands out with some stylish ideas of shooting, and which at some times even has a slightly surrealistic touch. Chan proves his expertise as a director with a story revolving around the portrayal of a generation without a perspective in life, which actually is full of genre-clichés, yet never feels that way. For once, this is thanks to Chan's extraordinary directing, which in fact partly resembles that of Wong Kar-Wai, meaning that there are some similar elements, yet also can retain his own style. On the other hand Sam Lee's screen presence also adds to the movie's success. We see things with his eyes, which gives the film something credible and genuine.

Moon isn't just the film's main character. Being the focus of the whole movie he also acts as a narrator. Moon realizes very soon that there is no right or wrong in this world, as he tells us. He wants to keep his freedom, which is why he doesn't join any gangster organisation. But this doesn't change the fact that he actually is a gangster. At least he can choose which jobs to take and which he refrains to execute. Therefore, we have to wonder if Moon is someone who managed to retain a certain kind of moral code? That's not easy to answer as Moon's character is difficult to define. Sometimes he avoids violence, at others he even seems to take pleasure in throwing some punches. Moon can't be classified with the means of trivial categories like good or bad. He is simply a boy, who went astray on the path of life, because no one gave him directions. It's impossible to put any blame on Moon for his actions, in fact we even can sympathize with him, yet he also isn't any sort of "hero" in the sense of a heroic-bloodshed movie.

Later on "Made in Hong Kong" shows some signature of a vengeance-film, nevertheless, there is no doubt that Moon's wish for revenge is a lot more profound. He doesn't just want to take revenge on certain individuals that caused him or others to suffer, but he wants to take revenge on the world of adults itself.
Sam Lee ("Dog Bite Dog") really is an interesting actor and sticks out because of his unusual charisma. In "Made in Hong Kong" he has his debut and simply delivers a truely sincere performance as a boy, who is disappointed by adults over and over again, yet tries to get on a rightful path at times, but is being pulled down into a world of violence and disorientation by external circumstances. Moon looks for his own path in life and believes to have found it in the shape of Ping. She could make him a better person just by being at his side. But the world Moon lives in is a complicated, harsh one with lots of obstacles. With time he learns to understand the reasons why the girl Susan commited suicide, but for this kind of a way out of misery he is still too fond of life, in the beginning.

The fascination for Fruit Chan's film lies in the nature of how we see the world with Moon's eyes. This also allows Chan to create some pretty absorbing scenes. In one of them Moon wants to kill a man, but for the viewer this scene is presented as an overlapping of wishful thinking, truth, past and future, that stands as a well-done, tension-filled, as well as artfully profound moment. Furthermore, Moon also attaches great importance to style, which is the reason why we see him in a few very surrealistic and experimental scenes, in which, for example, he poses with a gun.
Also fascinating is that the story around a "terminal illness" doesn't really feel cliché-loaden within the frame of Fruit's work. This is without a doubt because of the fact that we get to see the events on screen from the very subjective perspective of Moon. This way Moon's mother and his friends also get more profundity, which may have lacked otherwise. Anyway, you have to give some sincere words of praise concerning the actors' achievements, since you can't really make out that most of them were just amateurs.

For a long period of time we get to feel the same disorientation in "Made in Hong Kong" that also plagues the main character. We don't really know if this story is actually heading somewhere in the end, and some parts of the story, e.g. Susan's suicide, somehow doesn't want to fit into the overall picture at first. Sadly, Chan's work is also a bit tedious at times and has some pacing problems. This may prove to be bothersome when watching the movie, and moreover, the nature of the film demands from the viewer to willingly let yourself get involved with the characters if you want to take something with you from this movie. Luckily, latter one proves to be a lot easier than you might expect. If you can tolerate the slow pacing you will be rewarded with a great ending. Only at this point all motives of the film are getting linked and we start to realize that the events on screen really can go near to us. There are typical motifs of a drama, triad stories, etc., but the real far-reaching events always happen, when we expect it the least.
In the end, all of this leads to a finale, that is exceptionally touching and can truely reward the viewer for some of the more slow paced scenes. The words of Mao Zedong at the ending, which are that the youth is the future of the country, get a very bitter, ironic touch within the context of the movie, which makes us suffer along with the characters and their fate even more. "Made in Hong Kong" is a recommendable movie, which really derserved the awards it won.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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