Fatal Vacation (1990)

Directed by
Dark but rewarding viewing
Reviewed by Simon on 2002-08-08

Eric Tsang is a loveable little funny man who's appeared in and directed some good comedies. Quite strange then to see him appear in and direct a movie without any comedy whatsoever. FATAL VACATION is a surprisingly serious movie - verging on grim and even disturbing in places.

The plot involves a large and motley group of HK folks who all head off on a guided tour of the Philipines, with Eric Tsang as their tour guide. Their plans of sight seeing, souvenier shopping and prostitute shagging are rather rudely interrupted almost the moment their vacation begins though, when their bus is hijacked by a gang of communist terrorists, and they are all taken to the terrorist camp to be used as bargain pieces with the government over the release of their leader.

The movie's greatest success is to take a large - really large - cast, and make everbody in it stand out. Everybody has their own character and their own story. Beyond this, the movie focusses on the group dynamics that arise when a bunch of friends and strangers are put in a stressful situation, where their lives could be ended at any moment. It's a little bit Battle Royale in a way - or probably more like a disaster movie (whatever happened to that genre anyway?).

It's not a cast of big name stars - Eric is the biggest by far, though there's a few other recognisable faces in there. They all do a good job with their characters though. The script no doubt helped the actors with this, because it is well written - intelligent and focussed.

The final portions of the movie are perhaps a little overdone, as the situation turns into something that looks pretty much a like a small war. It features some pretty decent action sequences, actually - lots of bullets and bombs and bodies all over. Because the characters have been well developed, there is more emotional/dramatic weight to the action than is usually the case with actual action movies.

I liked the movie a lot, thought it was well made and quite gripping, thought provoking even. It is definitely quite a serious movie though, not a fluffy or jolly movie to just pass the time with. If you're fine with this, however, the movie comes recommended.


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