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Golden Brother

Stephy Tang and Bosco Wong in Golden Brother.
Chinese: 男人唔可以窮  
Year: 2014  

Chung Shu-Kai


Yau Chi-Chak, Daniel Feng Kai-Shuai. Cho Ging-Man


Kwok Kin-Lok, Sit Ho-Ching, Chung Shu-Kai


Bosco Wong Chung-Chak, William Chan Wai-Ting, Stephy Tang Lai-Yun, Zhao Rong, Liu Kai-Chi, Michael Tse Tin-Wah, Rose Chan Ka-Woon, King Kong, Mimi Kung Tse-Yan, Timmy Hung Tin-Ming, 6 Wing, Emily Kwan Bo-Wai, Hui Siu-Hung, Angelina Lo Yuen-Yan, Ivan Chan, C. Kwan, Edward Chui Wai-Tung, Deep Ng Ho-Hong, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Tin Kai-Man, Ben Wong Chi-Yin, Philip Keung Ho-Man, Wong Cho-Lam

The Skinny: Bland direction, bad development and uneven acting make Golden Brother a below-average film, but the TVB-like atmosphere and cast of familiar faces make it a decent time killer. OK fodder for Hong Kong television drama fans, and not much else.
by Kozo:

I can’t believe it’s not TVB! Directed by Chung Shu-Kai, Golden Brother wasn’t produced by Hong Kong’s number one television monopoly/evil empire, though it’d be understandable if you think it is. After all, it stars many familiar TVB faces and was even shot in that unimaginative, cardboard style endemic to TVB. The story? Also TVB-like in its hackeneyed tropes and melodrama devices. Golden Brother concerns Sit Ho-Ching (Bosco Wong), a spineless loser who’s let go from his office job thanks to unfair politics. Ching has long heeded the words of his father, crippled ex-cop Lai (Liu Kai-Chi), which state: “Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you. Do your best at what you’re supposed to do.” Those are some upright values, right there. Unfortunately, despite that advice, Ching has been a lifelong doormat, and things get worse when he spots his girlfriend, Elna Cheung (Stephy Tang), getting into a yellow Porsche with an unidentified driver. Ching immediately assumes the worst and angrily detonates that relationship. Whaddya know? He suddenly loses everything.

Having few options, Ching takes a job at Winson Investment, which deals in unregulated high-risk currency speculation a.k.a. London Gold Exchange (see Wikipedia for the lowdown). This is a problem for numerous reasons, including (a) Ching’s father hates London Gold Exchange, (b) Ching’s estranged ex-con brother Yong (William Chan) works at Winson Investment, and (c) London Gold Exchange is basically a thinly-veiled scam. Ching endures numerous issues at Winson Investment, and among other obstacles must deal with an evil team leader (King Kong), a possible mauling by mainland toughs, romantic distraction from a hot-to-trot colleague (Rose Chan) and snarky asides from Yong, who’s still pissed that Ching helped send him to jail years ago (according to Ching, it was for Yong’s own good). Meanwhile, Yong and his dad are pissed at one another, and Ching can’t resolve his issues with Elna. Will Ching be able to survive his new job, keep his values and win Elna back despite acting like a petulant d-bag?

The answers to the above questions are actually less predictable than you think, though that’s probably because the story tries to do so much that it’s always three steps ahead of you. Golden Brother is based on an Internet novel posted on Hong Kong’s popular Golden Forum and written by Sit Ho-Ching – yep, it’s based on his life! The film’s status as a loose biopic adds some authenticity but its plot-packed melodrama flushes that authenticity straight down the porcelain. Too much happens in Golden Brother, and coincidence and convenience are too often the cause. Bosco Wong’s Ching gives wall-to-wall voiceover, supporting characters monologue with long speeches of understanding, and plot holes abound. Worse, the story features a huge time gap in the middle where Ching goes from rags to riches, the only explanation being five seconds of voiceover and Ching suddenly looking like he’s Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. Despite Bosco Wong’s solid performance as both Ching the loser and winner, the film establishes zero credibility getting where it does.

Also, director Chung Shu-Kai does the film few favors with his colorless, bland direction. That isn’t to say that the situations don’t work; actually, they do, though that seems to be a function of the film’s resemblance to a standard television drama. There’s indeed a complete story here – Sit Ho-Ching is a character who loses everything then rises to the top before having a crisis of conscience that puts him on the path to achieve the SUPER win – it’s just that the film lacks the development to smooth its narrative along. But your TVB-trained brain can probably fill in all the blanks; your familiarity with actors like Bosco Wong, Timmy Hung, Michael Tse (as an estranged friend of Ching’s father) and others can act as shorthand to invisibly develop situations and characters. The cherry on top is a cameo by TVB golden boy Wong Cho-Lam, which references one of his TV characters that has absolutely nothing do with Golden Brother. It’s amusing but totally random. Why is Hong Kong Cinema so damn intertextual?

Golden Brother is just television fodder for the big screen, meaning it’ll work for an undemanding audience while not impressing anyone looking for style, substance, surprise or actual cinema. To the film’s credit, its climactic sequence – involving Ching’s choice between Elna and Leung On-Yi (Zhao Rong), a single mother with an autistic son (That’s the upper-right square on your TVB tropes bingo card!) – manages some suspense, and the filmmakers never pretend that this is accomplished filmmaking. This is grist for the mill made more palatable by its familiar faces and easily-digestible story. Fans of the stars will be served, though Stephy Tang doesn’t appear much and some actors are reduced to walk-ons. One bonus is the overacting duel between Liu Kai-Chi, whose over-the-top acting is his trademark, and William Chan, who sneers and snarks so gleefully that you might wonder if he isn’t like this in real life. The novel Golden Brother actually has a sequel, so maybe we’ll be seeing Ching, Elna and Yong again. Take five TVB dramas, Frankenstein them together, and you can probably figure out the story. (Kozo, 9/2014)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Vicol Entertainment Ltd. (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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