Monday, February 19, 2007

Crazy N the City

Anyone who's read my profile may notice that I mention I've recently developed a taste for Asian/Hong Kong romantic comedies. Though sometimes derivative and light, these movies nevertheless have an innocent, unvarnished and endearing quality to them that is missing from the more star-driven and formulaic fare that now comes out of Hollywood. While American audiences have become more open to films from Asia that feature martial arts and historical fantasy, these films in contrast provide a peek into modern cosmopolitan Asia, and the lifestyles of young, hip and stylish urban professionals that I personally find irresistible.

(A few of my favorite finds include Love Me, Love My Money, And I Hate You So, Blue Gate Crossing, So Close, and Gorgeous. All these films are available through NetFlix.)

Not all of the films I've sampled have been winners, and viewers should recognize that humor, of course, can be very cultural-specific. (One should also be prepared for occasional stereotypically bad English subtitles.) Asian romantic comedies are a bit more screwball—in fact, their rhythms are very similar to classic Hollywood screwball comedies of the 1930s. But they actually also can be quite heartfelt, romantic and, in the end, rewarding as well. (And, of course, the girls are usually quite lovely to look at!)

A recent delightful find is a 2005 film, Crazy N' the City. Like some of these films I've discovered, Crazy actually is a cross-pollination of several genres: a police story and hunt for a serial killer played against personal drama and gentle romantic comedy.

The film is about a Hong Kong policeman who, for various reasons, has lost his passion for law enforcement, and is simply biding his time until retirement. When his partner retires, he is assigned to train a young, attractive gung ho female cadet from the provinces. As he tries to show her the ropes (and, of course, teach her how to stay under the radar), real life begins to intrude. Several events—including the fact that a serial killer of young women is on the loose—begin to break through the senior officer's hard shell and cynicism. The film also includes a significant subplot about a mentally ill man who lives in the neighborhood patrolled by the officers. The man befriends a young woman who moves into his apartment building and, of course, eventually becomes targeted by the serial killer. (The film deals with the mental illness with some sensitivity; having watched several films like this, it was nice to see such a character not reduced to simple comic relief.)

Crazy N' the Ciy is a bit richer than this—again, unlike a lot of Hollywood fare, an effort is made to make even minor characters interesting and engaging, rather than simple opportunities for cheap gags. (The opening provides a very clever and amusing bit of audience misdirection as well, which nicely sets up the movie, and is echoed by the movie's epilogue.) And, strictly speaking, this is less a comedy than a romance-and-light-action picture. But the movie is engaging, moves along well, and culminates with an exciting and well-edited climax with a satisfying pay-off that some viewers may find touching.

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