Film & DVD Review
Two absolute strangers (Wong & Ming) both desperately struggling to find themselves make a hilariously funny partnership for money. Their plan: A bank robbery. Meet Ah Lee, a well educated, middle class professional who is deep in debt because of a so called friend. Then there's PaPa, an inexperienced and very outdated crook who is heartbroken by the recent break-up with his girlfriend. When PaPa decides to teach Ah Lee the art of robbing a bank, the two men discover more than just a thing or two about themselves!
Dayo Wong and Cheung Tat Ming make the comedy pairing in F***/Off, a film which only rips off the Face/Off in name, but not in quality or style.
"I'm the boss... Capish?"
Dayo Wong is Papa, someone who regards himself as a rascal who can do anything. He thinks he is a big shot, and has the respect of others. In reality though he is not, and does not. Cheung Tat Ming is Ah Lee, a man with very little self confidence, who is easily bullied by others. He has no real friends, and no ability to stand up for himself. The two are complete strangers until one day when they meet in a public toilet and Ah Lee mistakes him for someone else. They part their ways after that encounter, but Ah Lee's day takes a severe turn for the worse. At work he is confronted by a large debt collector, who gives him an ultimatum of 7 days to pay back the 3 million Hong Kong dollars which Ah Lee owes, due to a shares deal going horribly wrong. Not having the money, he contemplates ending his life, and it is from up on top of a building that he sees Papa climbing the outside of the building. Unfortunately Ah Lee loses his balance and falls off the building, but catches hold of Papa before hitting the ground!
"Damn it! This isn't a Capuccino!"
Surviving that encounter, Ah Lee explains his financial troubles to Papa, who then comes up with a plan to help him out - robbing a bank. It's easy to rob a bank, he claims, and with no other alternative Ah Lee starts to undergo a rigourous training regime to get him ready for the robbery. However, Papa is a man who never finishes what he starts, and always finds an excuse for it. With help from Papa's ex-girlfriend, Ah Lee starts to realise that Papa is all talk and no action, and loses faith in his new friend's abilities and commitment. Papa's ex-girlfriend still loves him, but his attitude and lack of commitment to what he does is something which she can't take any more of, and as such is intending to leave for Japan with her work. To prove that he loves her and is willing to do what it takes to keep her, he promises her that he will finish one thing which he has started - the bank robbery, although he doesn't tell her what the thing is!
"So that's what a woman looks like!"
What follows is a complete arse up of the robbery, as things go from bad to worse, and they discover a police woman who will never give up the chase!
As a comedy film starring Cheung Tat Ming, who has done stand up comedy shows, you would expect F***/Off to be quite a funny film. Maybe I've just become accustomed to Stephen Chow style humour, but I didn't find this film to be that funny at all. There were a few moments where I did laugh a little, but most of the scenes which were clearly meant to be funny only managed to raise a slight smile, if that. Too much of the humour and comedy moments were forced upon us, and far too predictable to considered as being funny. In places it was as if they were saying to the viewer "Look, were doing something funny! Laugh. Come on laugh! It's funny, laugh!" Being told to laugh will never make something anywhere near as remotely funny as something which is far more natural in comedic approach.
"Wish we got tights which didn't chafe so much..."
The film is quite slow to start with, and it is not until they actually start to go through with the bank robbery that the quality of the laughs increases. Papa stated that he has been planning on the bank robbery for 10 years... if so he should be ashamed! They royally balls up the robbery, and only really manage to escape with some money due to luck. First one of their guns breaks, then their stocking masks start to get ripped and fall apart. Ah Lee's is stuck back together with tape, but then some of the tape gets stuck to Papa's face, and rips his mask further. On escaping from the bank, the police chase ensues, and it is mildly funny. An old police woman just never seems to give up, always appearing just as they thought that they'd lost her. It is in this chase, however, that one of the funnier lines is mentioned. They run past a cinema just as the doors open for the film to come out, so they think they'll be able to blend into the crowd as the masses of people pass by them. So as the doors open they stand there waiting to be engulfed by the crowd, and two people walk past them. "How come it is so quite?" one of them asks, "It must be a Hong Kong production" is the reply! Ok, so you had to be there...
Anyway, F***/Off has little else going for it to make it function on other levels. It is just a comedy, and alas not that great a comedy. There is character development, Ah Lee grows in self confidence and is able to stand up for himself, and Papa sees himself for what he really is, and admits that he isn't really a rascal, and that he does love his girlfriend, and is willing to do what it takes to keep her - the complete opposite of how he begins.
"Ok, whoever it was that farted, you're a dead man!"
F***/Off might make you smile slightly, but don't expect your cheeks to get much exercise or your sides to start hurting, as there is nothing her which is capable of doing that.
Audio & Subtitles
The audio option I watched F***/Off in was the Cantonese mono option - and it sucked. While everything that was being said, and all the sound effects were clear, everything had a very noticeable, metallic sounding, echo to it, which was very off putting. Now I'd heard of 5.1 mixes that suffered from this, possibly as part of the mixing process, but this a mono soundtrack, so clearly this is not the same thing. Quite simply, it is very poor.
"Left a bit, up a bit...", "Ok, that isn't the gun..."
The removable english subtitles are of far better quality. They are nice and bold, clearly legible on bright backgrounds, and positioned on the film print. Spelling is nigh on perfect for the whole film, with a couple of exceptions, likewise with the grammar. They would have got very high marks if it wasn't for the fact that none of the Chinese text, which appears on screen as the characters mouth things to each other, is subtitled. I've no idea if what is said is important, but given that there is a lot of text, it is a bit of a disappointment.
"That's a lovely perfume you're wearing... I gotta hug you!"
The film print was quite a surprise. With the poor audio, I would have thought the picture quality may have suffered a similar fate. Fortunately it didn't. There are no blemishes on the letterboxed print, and very little evidence of grain or anything like that. The picture may be quite soft, as there wasn't great clarity in detail, but that is a minor complaint on what is otherwise a good, clean print.
Now here's a face you wouldn't want to take home!
DVD & Extras
F***/Off comes with something which is quite a surprise when it comes to earlier Universe releases - it has something above and beyond the bog standard extras! You've got Star Files in English and Chinese for Dayo Wong, Cheung Tat Ming and Angela Tong, and a Making Of... The Making Of... is in Chinese and there are no english subtitles recorded for it. Unlike most other Universe DVDs, there is no trailer for this, or any other, film.
Post office packing guidelines were harder to follow than expected.
F***/Off isn't a great film. It wants to be a comedy, and nothing but a comedy. There isn't any action, drama or anything like that, for it to function on other levels, so it will pass or fail purely on its comedic value. Alas it failed. There are moments where you may laugh, but they are far too few, making the 99 minute duration drag on longer than it really should. There is nothing for me to recommend this film on, not one to even watch once then never see again. There are many, many far better films out there, so watch one of them instead!
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