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Love on the Rocks

(left) Gigi Leung and Louis Koo, and (right) Charlene Choi in Love on the Rocks.


Year: 2004
Director: Dante Lam Chiu-Yin, Chan Hing-Kai
Producer: Chan Hing-Kai, Amy Chin Siu-Wai
Writer: Chan Hing-Kai
Cast: Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Gigi Leung Wing-Kei, Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Donnie Yen Ji-Dan, Carl Ng Ka-Lung, Rain Li Choi-Wah, Alex Fong Lik-Sun, Kathy Chow Man-Kei, Chan Fai-Hung, GC Goo Bi, Gillian Chung Yun-Tung, Hui Siu-Hung
The Skinny: Another potent popstar vehicle, Love on the Rocks is a hit-and-miss affair, with some worthwhile, telling moments and also a bunch of cloying ones. Fans of the stars (which means a lot of people) will likely be charmed. An amusing, but ultimately forgettable romantic comedy.
by Kozo:

From the makers of Naked Ambition comes a touching, insightful exploration of what it means to love and be loved in the modern urban jungle of Hong Kong. Yeah, like that'll happen. Writer/director Chan Hing-Kai has gotten plenty of mileage off of his existential musings on modern relationships (see the La Brassiere movies for a mondo helping), and Love on the Rocks follows suit in grand romantic dissertation style. The film details a "freeze" in the relationship of a young Hong Kong couple, and all the hand-wringing and personal examination leading up to the inevitable reconciliation—or confirmed end—of their relationship. There's also a plot device disguised as a wacky/cute Hong Kong teen, and more pretty popstars than anyone could possibly want or need. It's all rather manufactured and cloying, but filmmakers do manage some good stuff along the way.

Louis Koo is Ming, a resolutely unromantic fellow who should be slapped by any girl who ever enjoyed getting flowers—even if he is the hottest thing this side of Ekin Cheng. On Valentine's Day, he takes his live-in girlfriend Annie (Gigi Leung) to an el cheapo hot pot restaurant, which costs $58HK per head after 9:00 pm. For those working on western currency, that's approximately $7 for a full meal, which includes such wonders as plates of rooster testicles to satiate your questionable palate. It's seeing Ming snack voraciously on rooster balls with his ugly pal Ong Bak—who just so happens to join the couple on their Valentine's Day dinner—that gets Annie upset, and this is after not getting any flowers to boot (Ming terms them a "waste of money"). At the end of the evening, her mind is set: time to break up.

As would be expected, Ming is against the idea, but her dad (ubiquitous Hui Siu-Hung) has a better idea: put a freeze on things until Easter, whereupon the two can decide if it will be a better idea to stick together or go their separate ways. To better understand his deal with relationships, Ming decides to go on the Internet and hire Crystal (Charlene Choi), a nineteen year-old self-proclaimed love expert who—despite never having fallen in love—supposedly knows all there is to on the subject. Her proof? Not only has she read every romance novel ever, but she knows the meaning of every coupling of flowers imaginable, AND she can predict the emotions of young couples who are fighting publicly. With Crystal around, Ming gets lessons on the origins of his romance aversion syndrome, as well as more opportunities for hijinks. Besides being supposedly gifted in the knowledge of love, Crystal is a big fan of tricking people. Ah, only in the movies.

Ming's experiences with Crystal send him down memory lane, as he recalls all his previous relationships in hopes of somehow salvaging this latest one. This gives us the opportunity to see Louis Koo get it on with a number of comely lasses, including model Kathy Chow Man-Kei (sister of Niki Chow), singer Rain Li, and Gillian Chung, which means (that's right!) Love on the Rocks is not just a Louis Koo-Gigi Leung movie, but a Twins movie as well! EEG couldn't have planned it any better. Seeing Ming's past loves is supposed to give us insight into his character, though it's questionable if that happens. The flashbacks serve more as internal impetus for Ming's expected epiphany, which we get as Ming drones on and on in voiceover about his past loves. He also tries to make connections to these girls in the present day, in hopes of seeking closure to some of his past romantic gaffes. Meanwhile, Annie finds a whirlwind romance with a wealthy expatriate businessman (Donnie Yen in a bizarre cameo), and Crystal hints at possible affection for Ming. Plus there's weird bouts of kung-fu, and more pontificating on what a woman wants via Crystal's squeaky speeches.

As romance goes, Love on the Rocks hits shallow waters rather quick. Watching Louis Koo remember all his previous relationships to gorgeous women who he misunderstood, mistreated, or generally mistook as compatible partners makes for nice popstar watching, but it doesn't really provide much romance. Since much of those sequences are accompanied by Koo voice-over, the effect isn't that engaging. Love on the Rocks works better when less is said, which actually does happen from time to time. Ming's flashback to he and Annie's first encounter is actually an affecting sequence which relies on the actors and quiet situations instead of any intrusive voiceover. Those sequences give Louis Koo and Gigi Leung a chance to show their practiced screen chemistry, which was already seen in both La Brassiere and Mighty Baby. Love on the Rocks may be generally good for popstar watchers, but when it's Koo and Leung by themselves, the popstar watching hits supreme overdrive.

What's more problematic is the constant discussion and verbalization of "what is love", "what do women want", and other assorted topics which would make prime fodder for Oprah. The character of Crystal is inserted for primarily that purpose, and she's given mature-cute, tight-lipped charm by Charlene Choi. Crystal's bizarre presence makes for some entertaining, though questionably necessary sequences (At one point, Crystal physically romances Annie while wearing a suit and fake mustache!), but she never seems to be more than an extended plot device meant to do nothing more than spout theories of love, romance, and how dancing with a girl anywhere will be a key to winning her heart. The fact that the script hints at her also falling in love with Ming seems to be a detail that exists simply so Louis Koo can romance every woman in the film. Little time or weight is spent there, and Choi does more with those little moments than the script requires. But let's face it, none of it really seems logical, or even realistic.

Not that realism is even an issue here, because nobody out there in reality would dissect and discuss their emotions to such maddening existential degree as people in a movie written by Chan Hing-Kai. Acclaimed director Wong Kar-Wai does much existential musing in his films, but usually the thoughts are kept within a character, and have as much to do with self-doubt and delusion as insightful emotional truth. Love on the Rocks throws everything out there and supposes that it all means something, when in fact it may not mean much at all. Without a script that seems like more than a collection of important-sounding words, all that's left is simply the basics: good stars, fun times, and very little actual annoying stuff. With those three tenets, Love on the Rocks readily succeeds, and while it may not amount to much more, proves to be an amusing enough time.

What the film IS NOT, however, is memorable. And this is even with an overdone climax that requires Louis Koo to get so weepy that he seems to be gunning for some form of sensitivity award. Ultimately, Love on the Rocks does possess enough popstar presence and decent situations that it prevents inclusion in the "bad movie" category, but it's also pretty much a forgettable experience. My proof for this? Well (Warning! Self-indulgent reviewer personal experience ahead!), I saw the movie a week ago, but when it came time to sit down and write my feelings on the film, I simply could not remember what had happened. Thank goodness for DVD players and speed search, which made the second go-around take only twenty minutes. Still, that story pretty much spells it out: Love on the Rocks is as memorable as a McChicken sandwich, and probably as processed. However, my fading memory and personal gut feeling is that when I first saw the film, I was sufficiently amused. (Kozo 2004)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Trailer, "Making of" featurette

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