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Jaycee Chan and Wilson Chen bond in PK.COM.CN.
Year: 2008  
Director: Xiao Jiang  
  Writer: Xiao Jiang, He Changsheng (original novel)
  Cast: Jaycee Chan, Wilson Chen, Niu Mengmeng, Zhang Bo, Law Kar-Ying, Li Qinqin, Jiao Jiao
  The Skinny: Obvious intentions mar this otherwise intriguing MTV-style youth film. There's plenty to chew on here, though it's questionable how much of it is really relevant. Featuring the reunion of the boys from Twins Effect 2 and more product placement than should be lawfully allowed.
by Kozo:

No, they're not referencing that "PK". The amusingly-titled PK.COM.CN has nothing to do with the Hong Kong version of that abbreviation, meaning that it isn't an all-encompassing swear word used to describe everything from getting hit by a bus to someone being an idiot. The "PK" here means "Player Kill", a reference to online gaming and a rather appropriate moniker, as PK.COM.CN is very influenced by the impatient Internet age. Based on an online novel, this surreal youth film depicts youth whose handle on reality is tenuous at best, as they struggle to dream while also having those dreams suppressed by the iron cage of reality and grown-up life.

The themes present are compelling in that soul-searching, postmodern way usually practiced by people who scoff at accepted societal norm. Unfortunately, the film makes its aims completely and totally known, and does so in such a garish fashion that alienation is easy to achieve. If one can survive that, the film offers plenty to chew on and talk about, and would make great fodder for avant garde film readers and fans of MTV. And if dissection of the disorienting narrative isn't appealing, you can always view PK.COM.CN as the Twins Effect 2 reunion. The movie also has a polar bear. Apparently, there's something here for everyone.

Jaycee Chan stars as Zhang Wenli, a young doctor whose current life is not particularly ideal. While getting set up with potential future mates, he flashes back to medical school, where his days were filled with two people: pretty loner Wu Yufei (Niu Mengmeng) and charismatic slacker Ji Yinchuan (Wilson Chen, dialing the irreverent swagger up to a distressing 11). With a med school reunion approaching, Wenli thinks of those past days and how he lost touch with Yinchuan, the one friend who showed him how we could be. While Wenli was shy, Yinchuan was confident. Wenli admired Yufei, but it was Yinchuan who openly wooed her. Wenli ultimately toed the parental path of med school, and yet Yinchuan dared to dream, admonishing those who let their dreams die.

Now firmly entrenched in his presumably soul-crushing existence, Wenli finds the opportunity to rediscover his youthful passion and artistic expression by finding his long-lost pal and completely essential other: Yinchuan. Plus, the characters must take the time to distractingly push China web portal The website is referenced, not only onscreen but in spoken dialogue where characters discuss the site as a place they can "find" things. There's even an appearance by a plush toy version of their mascot. Here's hoping that the product placement fee was substantial.

An MTV movie for people who've forgotten what MTV was like back in 1992, PK.COM.CN eschews anything approaching reality for a disorienting, obviously mediated stage play-inspired version of the world according to Wenli. He attends medical school, but the classroom is an exceptionally dark space with no defined walls, and his dorm room is basically a cavernous warehouse. Copious voiceover, animation used to project inner states, and even moments of anthropomorphism are used, peppering the narrative with an onslaught of details and ideas.

Fractured imagery and intriguing symbolism pervade every scene, making this ninety-minute film seem like a stretched out version of a nineties Pearl Jam video. Logic takes a backseat to emotions represented via quick images, and the edgy animation, grungy pop soundtrack, non-linear narrative, and snappy editing make this a sensory assault on the eyes and ears. The actors are photogenic, soulful and mostly effective, though Wilson Chen's approximation of a Gen-X hipster goes from charismatic to insufferable before the film is out. There's a reason that his role is so extreme, however, and when it comes out, Chen should be spared some blame for his overdone performance.

However, too much is handed out by the end of the film, such that there's little room to argue about what it all meant. There's plenty to chew on here - dense imagery, moments that may make more sense upon second viewing, and Jaycee Chan and Wilson Chen's growth as actors since that little movie called Twins Effect 2 - but it's all subjugated to the overriding message of the movie, which should be spelled "MESSAGE" in capital letters because it's forced upon the audience like a serving of healthy greens by your parents. These are cool parents, however, with Bohemian ideals and a soul-freeing hipness that's admirable and perfect for fiction, cinema, and inspirational greeting cards. The film does have some power to affect, though one must accept director Xiao Jiang's need to tell us what she means, instead of perhaps conveying the same thing in a more elegant fashion.

PK.COM.CN takes advantage of cinema's power to affect through image, but also goes the literal route, marring its admirable intentions by smacking us over the head multiple times to make sure we understand them. Oddly, PK.COM.CN is both obtuse and obvious - a strange combo and not one that necessarily makes it worth recommending. There's real thought and effort in PK.COM.CN, but the heart and soul of the film are so gratingly postmodern that it's no surprise that the original source was found online. Perhaps it was found at (Kozo, Reviewed at the Udine Far East Film Festival, 2008)

  Availability: DVD (China)
Region 6 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Udine Far East Film Festival Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen