Thursday, September 17, 2009

Overheard: Hong Kong's Biggest Summer Hit

Crime thriller Overheard (窃听风云, pinyin: Qiè Tīng Fēng Yún) from the makers of Infernal Affairs, and the Shaw Brothers comeback film Turning Point (also known as Laughing Gor's Defection or Laughing Gor 之变节) fought a two-way battle for the honour of Hong Kong's biggest grossing local production this summer. It was Overhead that came out tops, earning HK$15.3 million for the two peak months of July and August. Turning Point earned HK$14.7 million over the same period, though it was disadvantaged by opening two and a half weeks after Overheard.

The box office figures were provided earlier this month by Hong Kong's Motion Picture Industry Association. Although the list of films was dominated by Hollywood blockbusters like Transformers 2 and the latest Harry Potter, which were the number 1 and number 2 grossing films of the summer respectively, four Hong Kong-produced films managed to make the top ten. The other two were Murderer, a thriller starring Aaron Kwok which grossed HK$11.7 million, and the period comedy On His Majesty's Secret Service ($HK8.8 million).

Overhead, written and directed by Alan Mak and Felix Chong, stars the versatile Lau Ching-Wan - last seen in Mad Detective - as well as Louise Koo and Danny Wu, and is about a surveillance operation investigating insider trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The film also features Mainland actress Zhang Jingchu (张静初).

Turning Point marks the return to movie-making after a lengthy absence of the legendary Shaw Brothers studio - 22 years away from film-making according to some reports such as this Hollywood Reporter article, though Shaw Brothers were listed as producers for Drunken Monkey (2002), so in fact only a seven-year absence. The film is a prequel to this year's hit TVB series E.U (see my earlier blog article), and cashes in on the popularity of the supporting character "Laughing Gor" played by Michael Tse. It also stars prominent Hong Kong acting identities Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang and Francis Ng. Direction is by prolific Hong Kong movie-maker Herman Yau.

Despite the good box office returns, are the films actually any good? My favourite source for Hong Kong film reviews, Love HK, gives both Overheard and Turning Point positive reviews albeit with some reservations.

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