Pros:Performances and a couple of exceptional scenes
Cons:Forced plot contrivances, very soap-opera-ish.
The Bottom Line: Kramer Vs. Kramer inspired drama with forced plot but good moments and performances. No SPOILERS
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
All About Ah Long (1989) is of primary interest to Chow Yun Fat, Sylvia Chang and Johnny To fans.
This is not an action film or comedy but a melodramatic domestic tear-jerker. Chow Yun Fat (The Killer, Hard Boiled) plays Ah-Long Yeung, a single father who works at a stone /rock quarry and was once a motorcyle racer until injuries forced him to retire.
He's a reformed womanizing, non-conformist who isn't very well educated and has been thrown some unexpected curveballs by life. He has resisted growing up but he is trying to do the right thing by taking care of his eleven-year old son. He's not a great Dad, but he loves his son very much and that counts for a lot. The film meanders a bit over the course of its 90 minutes and it winds up being a pretty predictable--though not safe--film with an ending that feels forced and unpredictable but not in a good way.
The film is a pretty crass manipulation from start to finish. It's a Kramer vs Kramer sort of soap-opera drama focusing on the effects a bad relationship has on a child. The film often tries too hard, but there are several well done moments within the film. The acting is quite good, the character Ah Long has more edges than one usually sees in film's like this and director Johnny To creates a few memorable scenes amidst the melodrama.
One of the best scenes involves the 11 year old child named Porky meeting his mother in a modern hotel's restaurant. The way the scene is photographed we get a child-like perspective of the large modern hotel. It's just short of breathtaking how immense, and modern the setting seems through a child's eyes. It's a well balanced scene visually that feels natural and non-gimmicky. Too bad the rest of the film doesn’t do this.
Ah Long's friend and bike mechanic Dragon takes Ah Long's 10 year old son to audition for a major commercial campaign. The director of the commercial's film and photo shoot is an old friend of Dragon and we will later learn is the former girl friend of Ah Long. We learn about the past relationship—which I can’t detail without giving too many plot points away. It feels strained and forced.
The characters are not full of the kind of endearing charms they would have had if this was a LIFETIME cable channel movie. The settings will also be unique to most American audiences. However there are scenes and attitudes that will be to rough and a bit raw for American audiences. If the script was better and the direction more consistent, I would have been able to recommend this one but its an unbalanced forced film that leaves a very sour taste in my mouth.
There are at least two exceptional scenes, and some excellent acting, but over-all this drama in the Kramer Vs Kramer mode is too forced and manipulative to recommend. If you’re a fan of Chow Yun Fat and Sylvia Chang or director Johnny To, you should see this one. All others might find some good things about it but ultimately it’s a big disappointment.
Copyright© Christopher J. Jarmick 2012
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV