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b420
AKA: Before Twenty...Before Too Old...
Miki Yeung and Sam Lee
Chinese: b420
Year: 2005
Director: Matthew Tang Hon-Keung
Producer: Peter Yung, Philip Lee, Yee Chung-Man
Writer: Matthew Tang Hon-Keung
Cast: Miki Yeung Oi-Gan, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Ben Hung Jin-Ming, Betty Luk, Winston Yeh, Ivy Wong, Zeni Wong, Lee Fung
  The Skinny: This "youth picture" is occasionally contrived, but it's still better acted and conceived than the vast majority of its contemporaries, and features a gorgeous look at local-level Macau.
   
Review
by Kozo:

A rare Hong Kong attempt at indie filmmaking, b420 is actually one of the better films to come out of Hong Kong in 2005. Newbie director Matthew Tang manages to craft something approximating life; his trio of slightly struggling youth feel real and immediate, and their stories make for an interesting if not essential ninety minutes. b420 is a minor, but not unworthy little film.

Miki Yeung (of Cookies) stars as Koey, a highschool dropout who lives in Macau with her grandmother. Koey conceals her lack of education from dear old grandmom, and concerns herself with making money plus possible emigration to join her parents. She works at a curio store alongside Simon (Ben Hung), a wannabe ballet dancer who can't nail his auditions. Simon is also massively in love with Koey, and has been since they were children in the same ballet class - though Koey has no recollection of this. Simon believes love can be built slowly, and befriends Koey quietly, through both their work connection and the Internet. Simon has another identity online, as Jenny, a fictional female confidant to Koey. Meanwhile, Koey meets Willy (Sam Lee), a former motorcycle racing champ who now sells DVDs for a living. The three form tentative friendships, each littered with white lies and supposedly hidden attractions.

The overarching storyline of b420 is a bit overwritten. Koey once participated in a highschool video project called "b420" along with two female friends. In the ensuing years, the girls have grown distant, the turning point being an evening of irresponsible mischief that ended with bad consequences. That past plot detail resurfaces in the present, along with a possible pregnancy, suicidal lesbians, debilitating personal tragedies, and the plan to fund a ballet school via a fake kidnapping. The converging plotlines start to feel very contrived, not unlike a catch-all film school thesis, and the attention given is sometimes too cursory to matter.

Thankfully, director Matthew Tang has a good handle on character interaction, and makes his trio of lead characters into interesting and even complex people. Koey, Willy, and Simon are all recognizably flawed, and their off-and-on interaction proves involving. Furthermore, Tang uses his Macau location exceptionally well, highlighting the city's gorgeous uniqueness without over romanticizing it. The movie sometimes seems to tell its own story, which helps make the abundance of sometimes contrived details feel more fresh than the vast majority of Hong Kong's recent attempts at "youth filmmaking." Whereas most Hong Kong youth films are cloying fluff-fests aimed at pushing empty popstars, b420 actually attempts something resembling filmmaking. It may not add up to anything that conclusive, but the trip is worth it. In comparison to stuff like Moments of Love or The Unusual Youth, b420 deserves a chance. (Kozo 2006)

   
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Deltamac
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
 

image courtesy of Deltamac

   
   
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