CHUNGKING EXPRESS (Chung hing sam lam) (director/writer: Kar Wai Wong; cinematographers: Christopher Doyle/Wai Keung Lau; editors: William Chang/Kit-Wai Kai/Chi-Leung Kwong; music: Frankie Chan/Roel A. Garcia; cast: Brigitte Lin (Woman in blonde wig), Takeshi Kaneshiro (Qiwu, Cop 223), Tony Leung (Cop 633), Faye Wang (Faye), Brigitte Lin (Woman in blonde wig), Chen Jinquan (Fast-food boss), Valerie Chow (Air Hostess); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Yi-kan Chan; Miramax Films; 1994-Hong Kong-in Mandarin with English subtitles)
“Whimsical Hong Kong comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Quentin Tarantino’s now defunct Rolling Thunder company released this unique whimsical Hong Kong comedy in the States. Writer-director Kar Wai Wong (“Happy Together”) tells two stories in one. They are both about nice-guy lovelorn policemen who fall for the wrong women. Both stories are framed around a downtown Hong Kong fast-food place called Chungking Express. The first story takes 42 minutes and has Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a cop whose badge number is 223, who tells the friendly fast-food boss (Chen Jinquan) that his girlfriend May dumped him. He deals with his heartbreak by going every day to a grocery store for a month and buying canned pineapples that have an expiration date of May 1. When May 1 comes around, he eats 30 cans of pineapples and gets a stomach ache. To relieve his ache he goes at night to the Bottoms Up Bar and gets drunk. He makes a vow to meet the first woman who walks in, and she turns out to be a mystery woman in a blonde wig wearing a raincoat (Brigitte Lin). What he doesn’t know is that she’s involved in a heroin smuggling operation. In the second more involving story, which takes 62 minutes, Tony Leung plays officer No. 663. His hottie air hostess (Valerie Chow) girlfriend dumped him after he obediently brings her lunch every day from the fast-food place. The boss’s boyish cousin Faye (Faye Wang) is the new fast-food worker who likes to listen to loud music because it prevents her from thinking. The song of choice is the American “California Dreamin’.” She has a crush on him, but the cop fails to respond. When the air hostess delivers a Dear John letter to the fast-food place, the dotty Faye gets the cop’s address promising to mail him the letter but instead breaks into his apartment when he’s out and cleans and redecorates it. One day, the cop catches her in his pad and looks upon her anew.
The lighthearted film is all style and energy, mindful of a Godard film for airheads. It exudes charm but wears out its welcome when it seems charm is all it has, and the hapless lonely characters become irritating as they spin their wheels as if they were in a fog. Christopher Doyle’s sharp photography makes it a stunningly beautiful visual delight.
REVIEWED ON 5/10/2006 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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