Review by Sean Bugg
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Tuesday, 10/18/2005, 9:00 PM
Feature presentation, $6 at Lincoln Theatre
Cantonese with English subtitles
WHEN ONE OF the Triad gang leaders in the opening scene of Enter the Phoenix says ”Hand him over to me, Hung One,” it’s unclear if the subtitle joke is intentional or fortuitous. But it certainly sets the tone for a traditional Hong Kong action flick with an openly gay twist.
Georgie (Daniel Wu, who Reel Affirmations devotees may remember from a few years back in the gay love story Bishonen) is working in Bangkok as a chef when word comes that his father, the leader of one of Hong Kong’s criminal Triad gangs, has died, leaving control of the family business to his only son. Georgie, who believes his father sent him away as a boy because he’s gay, doesn’t want the job, but his straight best friend, Sam, does. So Sam becomes Georgie and Georgie becomes Sam, and many hi-jinks ensue.
As befits a film executive produced by Jackie Chan, Enter the Phoenix is packed with broad jokes and slapstick comedy, as well as some exciting (if somewhat low budget) wire-fu action set pieces. Georgie, who apparently received martial arts training at culinary school, has the necessary skills to become Sam’s much-needed bodyguard.
At first blush, some of the gay jokes seem off-putting — Sam nearly getting a happy ending from an effeminately gay masseuse comes immediately to mind — but to its credit, Georgie’s homosexuality is never played for laughs. He’s the hero of the movie, and he gets to play that role without being undercut by cheap shots (although his off-screen lover conveniently remains out of kissing range in Bangkok).
Director Stephen Fung, who also plays the rival gang member seeking family vengeance on Georgie/Sam, keeps the comedy and action balanced throughout. While it’s not a groundbreaking movie moment by any means, it’s certainly a welcome arrival for gay fans of Hong Kong cinema.