Golden Chicken (2002)

Directed by
Hong Kong's recent history in metaphor
Reviewed by Simon on 2003-03-28

I had big hopes for this movie after very positive word of mouth, so maybe this is why I am left mainly disappointed by it. The movie feels kind of thrown together, wasting minimal time on set up and leaping straight into stories of one prostitute's turns of luck through the decades.

The film is fairly raunchy, dealing with the life and work of a prostitute in a pretty frank and open way, though it could certainly be accused of being a rather sanitised look at the job. For the most part, Sandra Ng has a jolly good time selling herself to the various men that her job introduces her to.

The years fly by pretty quickly, with the stories from the early parts of her career being mostly short and fluffy, as Sandra and her fellow chickens make a lot of money and provide a much appreciated service to the community. It's not long before we're in the 90's and pretty soon we hit 1997, which is where things slow down and fortunes change. For the remaining years up to 2003, the focus shifts to the economic situation in Hong Kong, and it paints a remarkably bleak picture for the SAR. I knew things were bad in HK since the handover, but this movie really brings home the situation the people are in since the British left. Ultimately there is a message of hope, suggesting that HK people have to evolve to meet the new economic situation they're in, and that if they can do so then life will start to improve again.

Sandra Ng is great as the titular Golden Chicken, giving the kind of performance that few actresses in HK would dare. The performances from most of the rest of the cast feel rather insincere though, like they are only there as a favour (which perhaps they were). Sandra has quite a few stories to tell, but ultimately most of them aren't that profound or especially amusing. There were places where I laughed, but the comedy was much tamer than I anticipated.

Perhaps the movie is one that is best appreciated by a HK audience, as the main message is one of understanding and sympathy for their economic situation. I usually don't subscribe to the notion that cinema does not travel well, but this may be a case where it is true.

Obviously other reviewers liked it a lot though, so perhaps its just that I was expecting something other than what I got, and that's why it left me feeling not particularly satisfied.