12 Golden Ducks (Matt Chow, 2015)

16373802198_ccb18997c2_b  As one Matt Chow movie leaves AMC’s Pacific Place this Thursday, another one opens on Friday, as his collaboration with director Wilson Yip Triumph in the Skies leaves Seattle screens and is replaced by 12 Golden Ducks (both films were released on February 19th in China, part of the Lunar New Year festivities that are the peak of the Chinese movie-going season, like if the US crammed all their releases between Memorial Day and Independence Day into one single week). I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, because it’s so new and because it’s playing as part of AMC’s Asian-Pacific Film program, which doesn’t ever seem to advertise or screen anything for mainstream audiences or critics (this has been the case with several releases in recent months, including major films such as Johnnie To’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 and Pang Ho-chung’s Women Who Know How to Flirt are the Luckiest and (more or less) Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain). Given the lack of attention the release of 12 Golden Ducks is likely to receive, we hope this preview post will be somewhat helpful, absent an actual review.

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Matt Chow has worked primarily as a screenwriter in Hong Kong since the early 1990s (he was one of the co-writers on Wai Ka-fai’s wild 1997 gangster comedy Too Many Ways To Be No. 1, along with Yip’s Bio-Zombie and Bullets over Summer, among many other credits), with occasional forays into directing in the early 2000s. Last year he returned to directing for the first time in a decade with the smash hit sequel Golden Chickensss. The third film in the series about a prostitute played by Sandra Ng (the first two were released in 2002 and 2003) whose life story is a loose allegory for the history of Hong Kong from the late 70s until the early 21st Century. Each film is packed with celebrity cameos and slapstick jokiness concealing an earnest emotional core of wistful humanity, powered by Ng’s brilliant performances (she was nominated for Best Actress Hong Kong Film Awards for all three Golden Chicken films, and won the Golden Horse Best Actress Award for the first one). The first two films were directed by Samson Chiu, and the first was written by Chiu along with Matt Chow. The third one was written and directed by Chow alone, and while it isn’t nearly as neatly structured or historically resonant as the first two films, being a mostly unconnected series of riffs on the impact of technology on the prostitution business (including a lengthy sojourn in Japan that doesn’t pay off at all), it does have  thrilling final third, with a sad gangster played by Nick Cheung failing to adapt to the modern world, ending in a city-wide sing-along.

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12 Golden Ducks is the latest film in the series (“chicken” is Hong Kong slang for a prostitute, “duck” is a male prostitute) and it promises more of the same. Sandra Ng, who also served as producer for this film and the last one), returns as the lead. This time, aided by special effects, she plays a gigolo (the same effects crew which expanded her bust dramatically in the last film), part of a gang of young men trying to make it as hookers in modern Hong Kong. It’s likely to be silly, weird, and a whole lot of fun. As with the previous films, Ng is joined by an all-star cast. Expect appearances by: Anthony Wong, Simon Yam, Nicholas Tse, Louis Koo, Zhao Wei, Eason Chan, and, in her first film appearance since 2008’s disastrous The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Isabella Leong.

12 Golden Ducks opens this week at the AMC Pacific Place.

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