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Wu Yen
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Sammi Cheng, Anita Mui and Cecilia Cheung are the three (sometimes) women of Wu Yen.

Chinese: 鍾無艷  
Year: 2001
Director: Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai-Ka Fai
Action: Tony Leung Siu-Hung
Cast: Sammi Cheng Sau-Man, Anita Mui Yim-Fong, Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi, Raymond Wong Ho-Yin, Lam Suet, Joe Cheng Cho, Hui Siu-Hung, Wong Tin-Lam, Bonnie Wong Man-Wai
The Skinny: Delightful but inconsequential, this somewhat overlong Lunar New Year comedy proves quite entertaining and even a little unexpected. Sammi Cheng and company shine in Johnny To's costume comedy.
by Kozo:

Though Anita Mui gets top billing in Wu Yen, the undisputed star of the film is none other than Sammi Cheng Sau-Man, who became a box-office sensation last year thanks to Needing You and Summer Holiday. Now she gets to headline her own Lunar New Year film, co-starring Mui and still-hot Cecilia Cheung. The classic tale of ugly warrior Chung Mo-Yim (or Zhong Wu-Yen) has been told before, most notably by Carol Cheng Yu-Ling in an old TVB serial. Brought to us by new comedymeisters Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai, this new flick reimagines Chung Mo-Yim as a costume comedy that channels Stephen Chow's mo lei tau comedies of the early nineties.

Chung Mo-Yim (Sammi Cheng) is a woman warrior who's fated to marry the Emperor (Anita Mui in a cross-dressing role). The two first meet when the Emperor accidentally frees the evil Fairy Enchantress (Cecilia Cheung), who then proceeds to get between Mo-Yim and the Emperor by proffering his/her affections. Mo-Yim spurns the Enchantress, so the Enchantress puts a curse on Mo-Yim. As long as she loves the Emperor, she'll be marred by a hideous mark on her face. Unlike the old TVB series, the mark isn't a half-black, half-white number, it's a simple red mark across one of Mo-Yim's eyes. She still looks pretty, but for some reason everyone in the movie runs like she's the Elephant Man. Undaunted, Mo-Yim swears to become Empress, but not without difficulties.

The Emperor turns out to be a lazy, skirt-chasing ass who has no sense of women, much less politics. Disgusted at Mo-Yim's "ugliness," the Emperor instead turns to a female incarnation of the Fairy Enchantress, who inserts herself into the palace to make things even more difficult for Mo-Yim. Mo-Yim hangs around until she's actually needed, which is whenever a fight needs to be won. When the going gets tough for the Emperor, he calls on Mo-Yim to save the day, which she does though sometimes reluctantly.

And so it goes for nearly two hours, as Mo-Yim attempts to win the Emperor's affections while fending off the overbearing Fairy Enchantress. Right away, this movie plays like a Lunar New Year film. The comedy isn't restrained by the period setting, and the jokes fly fast and furious in a fashion more typified by Wong Jing than Johnnie To. Still, To keeps the shtick grounded by relying less on a frenzied pace and more on his stars. Sammi Cheng inhabits Mo-Yim with a believable inner strength and a comedienne’s slapstick grace. Cecilia Cheung is good, too. However, the strongest performance is probably Anita Mui, who's hilarious as the Emperor. Together, the three women make Wu Yen a dizzy treat, by turns funny and even a little affecting.

A lot of delightful touches round out this Lunar New Year film. To uses puppets and song for exposition, stages mahjong games, and has each of his actresses play both sexes at one time or another. It all adds up to an utterly inconsequential time at the movies. Seeing Wu Yen as a semi-serious film is impossible, what with the multitude of convention-breaking jokes and anachronistic touches. Still, it's all in the name of fun. Wu Yen plays like an elaborate performance piece, and thankfully an enjoyable one. (Kozo 2001)

Awards: 21st Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Nomination - Best Actress (Sammi Cheng Sau-Man)
• Nomination - Best Art Direction (Bruce Yu Ka-On)
• Nomination - Best Costume Design (Bruce Yu Ka-On)
8th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
• Best Actress (Sammi Cheung Sau-Man)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam & Ronson
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image courtesy of Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen