Friday, September 30, 2011

Movie Review: Never Compromise

The back cover of this Chinese movie has a poorly translated plot summary of Never Compromise.  It begins:
Because of drug problem, 'Homicidal Mania' Bill and Shing conflict with a guy of triad society and kill seven...
Wait!  “'Homicidal Mania' Bill”?!

The Gweilo's Movie Ratings for Never Compromise
The Chinese movie review continues below this info box!
WTF Meter4.5 out of 5
MST3K-Ability4 out of 5
Chinese MovieNever Compromise

DirectorBosco Lam
ActorsFrances Ng, Simon Lui, Yu Rong-Guang
Format ViewedVCD (Universe U333 VCD 2252)

Right there, I knew I would have to see this movie.  Seriously, how can a movie be bad if the main character is called "Homicidal Mania" Bill

It turns out there are lots of ways a movie like Never Compromise can be bad, even if the main character has so much awesomeness in his name.  For example:
  • The movie can have a plot that makes no sense, and sub-plots we just don't care about. 
  • It can have oddly spastic attempts at character development that don't actually develop any of the characters, major or minor. 
  • It can turn out that the movie jumps around in time, with lots of flashbacks and so forth.  But the viewer doesn't even notice or care that it's jumping around until near the end.  But it doesn't matter because the characters haven't developed at all!
Those are just a few of the ways a movie like Never Compromise can be bad.  Just a few of the many, many ways.

But then, there's “Homicidal Mania” Bill, and the goofy, weird over-acting of Frances Ng just about makes up for the rest of the movie's shortcomings.

"Homicidal Mania" Bill is exactly that, extremely homicidal, and extremely maniacal.  And he's really, really weird, but not like Hollywood “weird”--he's really fucking out there.  For example, the movie opens with Bill mercilessly killing a family of seven.  OK, fine; that's what any normal homicidal maniac would do.  But then he does this with his face, for a really long time:

Crazy "Homicidal Mania" Bill post-murder face

What the hell is that?  And why does the filmmaker think we want to see it for so long?

Bill then goes into hiding (in an open boat along a public waterway), and his brother Shing brings him some carryout food.   Bill spits out the food, triggering a long series of flashbacks.  Apparently he's not only “Homicidal Mania” Bill.  He's also “Really Fussy Eater” Bill, so there's lots of different memories in store. 

Usually a movie's flashback scenes are triggered by something a little more significant and meaningful than spitting out food, but whatever.  This is “Homicidal Mania” Bill we're talking about.  He can trigger his memories however he wants! 

In one memory, Bill and his buddies are playing a remarkable poker game.  The first player has a straight, the second has a “full house of ace”, the third has four kings, but the next guy wins with a two of spades.  It's these little details that make Hong Kong cinema so enjoyable for me.

“Homicidal Mania” Bill and his friends get fired for playing cards on the job (they ought to get fired for playing cards so poorly on the job!).  After a brief misunderstanding in which “Homicidal Mania” Bill almost kills his circle of friends, they all decide to embark on a life of crime.

And that brings up a huge problem:  Why the hell does this circle of friends stay with “Homicidal Mania” Bill at all, let alone trust him with a gun?  He's clearly an utter lunatic and extremely dangerous!  His first name is “Homicidal Mania” for chrissake!  Of course Bill immediately screws up their first heist by being overly homicidal and maniacal.  And overly hungry.

Yes, he screws up this heist by needlessly blowing up police officers with homemade bombs, and then insisting that they stop in the middle of their getaway so that he can get a snack in a restaurant.  Even better, his retarded circle of friends don't see anything wrong with this change of plans!  The whole criminal team waits outside impatiently in their getaway van, engine running, pantyhose still half pulled down over their faces from the robbery, while Bill eats and drinks (in a maniacal way of course).  Naturally the police catch them, and throw them all in jail.

I should mention that there's a bunch of side stories going on about a big drug deal and a big illegal weapons deal and a triad from Macau and the police investigation and probably a few other things.  Honestly, this stuff is boring and confusing and extremely disjointed.  The only real fun in Never Compromise is “Homicidal Mania” Bill himself.

For instance, at one point he attacks his own birthday cake.  At other times, he beats up rats (yes, the rodents). He also tries making meth in a wok and selling it to a drug cartel.  Whatever will he think of next?

In a “big scene”, brother Shing tries to talk Bill out of his homicidal and maniacal ways.  “Fists are not the answer” he tells Bill earnestly, and Bill bobbles his head around in maniacal thought about this new concept.  “You have to stop attacking people,” Shing says.  The music swells, and there's a poignant pause.  Shing looks his brother in the eye.

“Bill, if you have to hit someone, hit me instead.”

And without a split second of hesitation, Bill leaps up and gleefully starts beating the living crap out of Shing.

And that's how we know we are far, far from Hollywood with it's boring old conventions of emotionally satisfying character development and growth.  From the Gweilo's perspective, a scene like that is pure gold.

After a while, Bill starts getting bored beating up his brother.  So he screams at Shing to think of something they can do after the beating's over.  What does Shing want?

Well, of course.

Bottom Line of this Chinese Movie Review:  As you can see, it's not really a very good movie.  But it works as a mildly amusing WTF laden distraction for an otherwise slow night.

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