Fung Chih-Chiang’s quirky interpretation of the modern Hong Kong show business, starring Chapman To and Charlene Choi…
Director Andrew Fung Chih-Chiang returns with his second film The Midas Touch after the spectacular success of previous outing The Bounty, bringing (the increasingly regularly appearing) Chapman To (Vulgaria, Infernal Affairs) and Charlene Choi (My Wife is 18, Triple Tap) along for the ride. Rejoining with one of the funniest stars in current Hong Kong, and main character of his directorial debut, The Midas Touch is a satirical yet safe glossy comedy which pokes fun at the entertainment industry.
Chapman To plays Mak Chiu (“call me Makkie”), a gritty debt collector with a large stick and short attitude, followed by a small crew of aspiring low-time criminals. As the collection of a large debt turns bad quickly, Mak decides to take over a modeling agency from a poverty stricken client, ‘inheriting’ 8 girls in the process. Each girl comes with their own talent, though their main collective talent seems to be the repulsion of Mak’s girlfriend as she quickly leaves him, with cries of Chapman To harboring a harem at his workplace, an aspiration if ever there was one.
With a lot of big dreams, Mak decides to become their new talent manager and vows after a particularly bad event to ‘make the girls stars, no matter what’. With a growing list of failures piling up, Mak turns to talent manager Suen Mei-mei (Charlene Choi) who was previously disgraced after actions with star J-Dragon (Gao Yunchang), after she helped him become an A-list action film star. Suen rises to Mak’s challenge and helps the girls progress in their careers, whilst watching her old estranged friend-now-star JD flounder without her guidance.
As with any role he takes, Chapman To is on hilarious form as debt collector Mak and plays well with co-star Charlene Choi, as an arrogant and self-important talent manager. Director Fung took a risk with bringing in 8 first time actresses, and whilst they never have the best acting talent or polish of the two main stars, it was a worthwhile risk as all 8 girls bring something great to the film and help make the plot itself more realistic (8 girls looking to become stars, played by 8 new actresses).
The pace of the film never lets down and each new scene brings a lot of laughs, a big worry was that most of the local jokes wouldn’t translate well to a larger audience outside Hong Kong, however there is little trouble here with that. Whilst a satire of the entertainment industry, the script itself trades realism for comedy, ignoring the darker aspect of show business and constantly parodying itself and it’s content for laughs. Certain aspects of the film ring especially true, such as the girls only getting job requests early in their career from porn companies, however little is shown in the risks of taking these offers and instead is jokingly brushed aside.
After expressing a talent for snagging big name stars in his debut film, director Fung carries this on as a plethora of surprise cameo appearances gleefully decorate the script, most are unexpected and some frankly incredible such as one humorous scene with Nicholas Tse playing himself and a following gag whilst on the toilet.
With a plethora of talent in the film, it’s hard for any of the girls to stand out and display their true talent, and some moments have to be pitied when acting alongside talent such as To, Choi and Tse. Despite this, the film delivers on all levels whilst also ensuring to never force the comedy. It is dramatic enough without becoming to lethargic, and romance would be a dangerous prospect as to potentially encroach on the previously mentioned ‘harem’, which would just undermine the story.
The Midas Touch itself is a cheeky yet bold second coming for director Fung Chih-Chiang, who manages to bring the magic in a range of talent whilst retaining the skills of his previous scripts (Shaolin Soccer, Sparrow) and taking a risk in the process with 8 unknown actresses. Whilst not a completely perfect film, it is a traditional Hong Kong comedy that fires on all barrels and delivers exactly what the audience expects. Director Fung shows his talent with this film and it’s exciting to see what he will create next.