Ah Sou (Mob Sister) (2005)

Directed by
Starts off well, then shoots its leg off
Reviewed by Simon on 2007-03-23

2005, the Hong Kong movie is floundering, and somebody must have concluded that what they needed was to promote some new talent. Somebody, possibly the same somebody, must have seen minor arthouse success FU BO and decided that one of its directors was the answer - Wong Ching-Po. They evidently threw quite a lot of money at him, and got two gangster films as a result - Jiang Hu and AH SOU.

AH SOU tells the story of Phoebe, a sweet and good natured girl.who is the adopted daughter of Triad Big Boss Eric Tsang. After a failed assassination attempt on her father, Phoebe is sent off to the US to study. After a few years she returns, just in time for another assassination attempt that is more successful. To her surprise, she becomes the new Dai Lo of the Triad - which does not go down all that well.

I heard so many bad things about this film that the DVD has sat unwatched for about 18 months, before I finally decided to get it out of the way. First impressions were that the film had been unfairly maligned, with some slick cinematography, charismatic performances from the cast. The excessive and pretentious attempts at stylisation that blighted JIANG HU seemed to have been left behind, and the story seemed interesting enough. For half an hour or so I was quite enjoying it, and anticipated giving it a reasonably favourable review. Past that, I noticed that I was starting to get a bit bored as the pacing flagged and it didn't seem to be going anywhere. Perhaps Wong Ching-Po started to feel the same way, because after a while those gratuitous attempts at 'arty' stylishness start to creep in - camera and editing effects which seem to serve no purpose except to say "look, I'm a director!". The story still held some interest though... until it stopped making sense. First it throws a curveball of a plot twist that seemed to have had zero foreshadowing, and made very little sense (it changes the perception of at least one major character in a way that seems more random than unexpected). Then it just seems to give up, and plunges headlong into a literal wreck of a conclusion that offers no resolution or satisfaction.

The production values are high, and the cast give their characters their best shot, but ultimately it's all sabotaged by Wong Ching-Po's apparently confused attempts to stake out turf as a stylish and innovative director (perhaps fancying himself as the next Wong Kar-Wai). Somebody needs to explain that style and originality aren't a replacement for having your story make sense and your characters act consistently/logically, and that genuine style complements the tale rather than distracts from or obfuscates it. Or, they just need to stop giving him money to make films (and give it to Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung instead).

Oh, apparently they already did :-p