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Slim Till Dead

     

(left) Sheren and Anthony Wong, and (right) Cherrie Ying in Slim Till Dead.

Year: 2005  
Director: Marco Mak Chi-Sin
Producer: Wong Jing
Writer: Wong Jing
Cast: Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Sheren Teng Shui-Man, Cherrie Ying Choi-Yi, Raymond Wong Ho-Yin, Crystal Tin Yui-Lei, Zuki Lee Si-Pui, Vonnie Lui Hoi-Yan, Jing Gang-Shan, Wu Qing-Zhe, Wong Jing
The Skinny: Your standard Wong Jing hodgepodge, meaning an all-over-the-place mixture of elements passing itself off as a film. Amazingly, Slim Till Dead holds together enough to make it reasonably interesting, if not tasteful. This is diverting crap, if nothing else.
Review
by Kozo:
     With Slim Till Dead, writer-producer Wong Jing presents a scathing look at Hong Kong's ubiquitous "slimming craze", and indicts society and its media-enabled fascination with image over substance. Sure, and it's still April 1st. Slim Till Dead is a mystery suspense thriller set amidst the slimming craze, i.e. the current trend of women to want to be skinnier than they should be, all to measure up to the beanpole standing next to them. The idea that women would kill to be skinny, or kill to be skinnier than their competitor, isn't very original-sounding, but it could have added a layer of satirical subtext to an otherwise routine and messy exploitation thriller. As it is, Slim Till Dead lives up to its name, because this is one thin movie. It's also typical Wong Jing, meaning it's populist crap that could entertain some. It could also piss off those expecting Silence of The Lambs—though it that's what you're expecting then you should chastise yourself before anyone else. As usual, it's all in the expectations.
     The venerable Anthony Wong stars as Tak, a screwed up cop with three major problems. One, he gets all nervous with a gun in his hand, which is a psychological remnant of a previous accidental shooting. Two, his retired criminal psychologist wife Ling (Sheren) won't have sex with him when he wants it. And three, he's about to get passed up at the job by someone else. That someone else is a decorated cop named William Hung (*gasp*), played here by none other than the man behind the curtain, Wong Jing (*double gasp*). At this time, we must pause to recognize the genuinely bizarre and even amusing casting going on. For one, Wong Jing plays a supporting role that isn't characterized by scene-chewing wackiness, and he actually plays it semi-well, if not with the gravity one would expect of a tough criminal psychologist. Two, he plays a character named William Hung, which was probably funny last year, but this year isn't. Still, Wong Jing IS William Hung. If the Karma Police are watching, then this could be the bust of a lifetime.
      Back to the film: Tak gets drawn into a meaty case when a model for a slimming center is found stuffed in a box, and missing most of her flesh. Her final weight is seventy pounds, which is neatly stickered onto her—just like on a pack of meat at the supermarket. Immediately, Tak and partner Bull (Raymond Wong) are on the case, except the case is mostly following the wacky models as they muddle through their daily routines. Model Sisi (Crystal Tin, who turns in an oddly effective performance), is stuck playing the Miriam Yeung role in an obvious parody of Fruit Chan's Dumplings. She's also into performing Muay Thai in the middle of her modeling routines. While that whopper of a non-joke sinks in, Tak has other issues. He wants to impress boss William Hung, but most of his good ideas are his wife's. Plus there's another player: Ken (Jing Gang-Shan), who's wanted by a Mainland paparazzi named Tin Fuk (played by actor Wu Qing Zhe, who's as uninteresting as he is unknown). There's also harried slimming consultant Cherrie (Cherrie Ying), who's being pursued by Ken and possibly romanced by former classmate Bull. Plus Ling still won't have sex with Tak, and the audience is likely wondering where all of this is going.
     The destination: nowhere, but in a passable way. By passable, we mean that Slim Till Dead manages to hold marginal interest with decent pacing, surprisingly solid production values, and the always interesting Anthony Wong. Sadly, Slim Till Dead is more reminiscent of Wong's late nineties work (when he made more films than Chapman To, Hui Siu-Hung, and Lam Suet COMBINED) than his current streak of decent roles, but as Hong Kong exploitation goes, this isn't the worst thing out there. It's certainly better than some of the later Raped by An Angel films, though that measure is only a few inches off the ground. If anything, Slim Till Dead proffers a passable commercial potboiler...if you assume that the pot is old, rusty, and has been used far too many times to be healthy. And for our final metaphor: Slim Till Dead is the Hong Kong Cinema equivalent of a Big Mac. Don't expect nutrition, but if you're hungry and in a hurry, this will at least do the job. However, indigestion is also possible.
     Slim Till Dead is simply another Wong Jing hodgepodge hackjob; it's a combination of movie parodies, current media references, bizarre plotlines that go nowhere, and ill-fitting parts that don't seem to truly matter. Tasteless, and even needlessly gross stuff arises, and missed opportunities crop up by the dozen. Why all the extraneous detail? Are Tak and Ling's sexual difficulties connected to Tak's inability to fire a gun? Is this slimming serial killer merely the satirical extreme of the media's blinding spotlight on the need to be rail-thin? Is Cherrie the mousy victim of the expectations of others, who all expect her to be thin, pretty, and obedient? Or am I reading too much into this film? The answer to that, of course, is yes, I'm reading to much into this film. Like any Wong Jing film, you can't read anything into what's happening. Subtext, intelligent satire, and actual purpose mean jack here; Wong Jing isn't trying to do anything besides entertain with a series of quick hooks and superficial attractions. Those attractions: Anthony Wong, TVB star Sheren, the pretty Cherrie Ying, girls in bikinis, and even a little implied gore. Basically, you get what you pay for...so hopefully, you didn't pay that much. However, if you downloaded this film illegally, you should wait at your computer. The police will be arriving very shortly.
     But again, Slim Till Dead is diverting crap, which means that A) it's junk, and B) it's passably involving. Director Marco Mak manages to throw some workable MTV-style flair into things, though his choice of music is questionable. At times, the score takes on a wacky comedic feel, though that's echoed by all the odd comedy involving Tak, William Hung, and sitcom-style mistaken identity. One could wonder why Wong Jing didn't lean more on his slimming hook. After all, if he had, he would have been the first person on the block to do so. Hong Kong's media-driven culture has plenty to skewer, and slimming could have been a dynamite thing to satirize. Ultimately, however, the simple lesson learned is: slimming can make you crazy. A lot more could have been said, and it would have been nice to see Wong Jing try. (Kozo 2005)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

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