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House of Wolves

Francis Ng and Ronald Cheng rule the House of Wolves.
Chinese: 惡人谷
Year: 2016
Director: Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu
Producer: Alvin Lam, Ren Yue
Writer: Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Anselm Chan, Fung Min-Hun

Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Maggie Jiang, Candace Yu On-On, Babyjohn Choi, Ella Koon Yun-Na, Derek Tsang Kwok-Cheung, Josie Ho Chiu-Yi, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Liu Fan, Bonnie Wong Man-Wai, Tin Kai-Man, Lam Chi-Chung, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, Tsui Chi-Hung, Fung Min-Hun, Ha Chun-Chau, Tam Ping-Man, Eman Lam Yi-Man, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Cheung Tat-Ming, Louis Yuen Siu-Cheung, Chrissie Chau Sau-Na, Wylie Chiu, Phat Chan

The Skinny:

OK Lunar New Year-style comedy with decent gags plus solid comic performances from Francis Ng and Ronald Cheng. Better than many recent efforts from director Vincent Kok.

by Kozo:

From director Vincent Kok, House of Wolves is an occasionally inspired but mostly average Lunar New Year-style comedy that landed in Hong Kong shortly before – but not actually on – the 2016 Lunar New Year, conveniently avoiding juggernauts From Vegas to Macau III, Monkey King 2 and The Mermaid. A wise move, that. Francis Ng stars as Charlie, a resident in a New Territories village called "House of Wolves" (at least according to the English-language bus signage), where he swindles people by pretending to be physically challenged. Besides faking Keyser Soze-like palsy, Charlie is such a jerk that he'll even steal a little girl's dog to use as a prop, plus he scams rich housewives out of their cash utilizing his "good" looks. Yep, Charlie's a right bastard.

Meanwhile, Ronald Cheng plays Bing, the loud and obnoxious village chief. While not quite as bad as Charlie, Bing is still a jerk, bullying residents and children while having the temerity to use his mother's lotion as a masturbation aid. These two dudes of questionable character get drawn in by the same woman: Jane (Maggie Jiang from So Young), a novelist whose elegant good looks make her a rarity among the village's down-to-earth women. However, Jane has some questionable character traits beneath her angelic exterior, and even though Charlie and Bing have some idea – they see her kick over a port-a-potty with someone still inside – they may not be prepared for the extent of her chicanery. Before long, these independent wolves become a thick-as-thieves trio.

Maybe-a-spoiler-alert: Jane invites the men to a dinner party that ends with her fooling both into thinking that they could be the father of her unborn child. Both agree to help support her, further strengthening the group’s bonds, but the real father eventually shows up to poke holes in Jane’s scheme and split the trio apart. Yes, I’ve fully described the first two acts of the film but this story tension isn’t really conveyed by the pace or action. Furthermore, the narrative’s higher purpose – that somehow this connection between the three eventually makes them better people – is completely unconvincing. Lacking a consistent or compelling story, House of Wolves ends up mostly being about star performances and off-color wackiness, which isn't unusual for a Hong Kong comedy.

Vincent Kok's reliance on his actors and antics is generally successful. Ronald Cheng and Francis Ng are both dudes who can act silly and just plain act, and the interplay between the two is where the film largely takes flight. The jokes aren't showstoppers, and banter frequently goes on longer than is necessary, but these guys can deliver – especially Cheng, who's still Hong Kong's best working screen comedian. Ng's performance is less consistent than Cheng's, but he's still a hoot. Maggie Jiang is somewhat out-of-place, but she does possess an alluring quality not found among Hong Kong actresses of comparable age. The big cast of familiar faces helps, from Josie Ho to Sam Lee to Derek Tsang to Ella Koon. Special credit should also go to Candace Yu, who shows comedic skills as Ronald Cheng's mom.

House of Wolves culminates with perfunctory scenes of the characters breaking up and making up, plus the arrival of vaguely threatening villains and even more celebrity cameos. It's all inconsequential and predictable, and audience understanding and/or tolerance for Cantonese-style comedy is a must. House of Wolves lacks the sophisticated wit or visual humor that might entertain international audiences – this is a locally-targeted laffer through-and-through. However, the film scores higher than most of Vincent Kok's recent commercial comedies making it a better time killer for a lazy Sunday afternoon than, say, Love is…Pyjamas or Hotel Deluxe. What this doesn't qualify as is appointment viewing, so plan your television (or streaming, if that's your thing) schedule accordingly. Ng, Cheng and Kok – they've all shined brighter. (Kozo, 8/2016)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
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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