Saturday, June 19, 2010

Josie Ho is not Paris Hilton

Even though each of then has certain shared characteristics--Josie Ho is the daughter and presumed heiress of a wealthy man; she is young, talented and attractive; and she has a career as a singer and actress that is based on her hard work and willingness to put in the requisite time and effort. Paris Hilton is the daughter and presumed heiress of a wealthy man.

While strange to think of these two together but I did for a moment while reading an interview with Josie Ho in HK-online in which she was quoted as saying:

"I have so much energy… maybe that’s why I have so much anger.
Now that I’m older, I get even angrier.
I feel there are more forces obstructing me."

(HK-online apparently doesn't bother printing the questions in interviews)

The idea of Josie Ho having to deal with forces obstructing her, while real enough to her, is hard to fathom given her material/social/class advantages over 99.9% of the population of Hong Kong--and maybe the rest of the world. However she presents herself in an interview, she is still a terrifically talented and committed actress who is often riveting onscreen.

A good example of this is Johnny To's crime drama Exiled in which she plays the perfect Triad wife trying to keep her husband alive during the last hours of Portuguese rule in Macau. This is not a review of Exiled--there are plenty of reviews--but a quick look at Josie Ho's role in it as the only person who is neither a killer nor someone who profits from killing.

Her husband, played by Nick Cheung, is returning from overseas in an attempt to pack up his family and get them somewhere safe. Anthony Wong and Lam Suet are waiting to kill him while Francis Ng and Roy Cheung are there to thwart the killers. None of them is as committed as Josie Ho.

She is waiting with their child in the sun-drenched tropical outpost for her husband to arrive:

She understands the difficulties of being the wife of a gangster, one of them being the chance that armed men may shoot up the apartment trying to kill each other while some of them also try to kill her husband. In an amazing sequence we see her through a doorway with the gun battle at its height. She goes to her child's crib, picks him up and allows him to nurse--something has to be normal during this day of the world turned upside down:

Even after the gunfight  she remains a proper hostess, bringing the men pillows and blankets so they can bed down in the living room while keeping watch on each other and her husband--and asking, almost casually, that she and her family be allowed to live:

There will have to be some serious blood spilled, of course, although the four gangsters have allied with each other and with her husband to rip off a huge shipment of gold being shipped out as the Portuguese leave their colony on the edge of Asia to return to the edge of Europe. Nick Cheung has to die and die he does. A chance to emigrate with more gold than she can carry doesn't balance her new widowhood as she shows the other side of being a Triad wife:

She not only shoots at the fleeing gunmen but decides that the only thing to do is strap her baby across her chest, put the huge revolver in her purse and hunt down the foursome she holds responsible, going from hotel to hotel with a photograph of the four of them plus her husband when they were much younger, good friends growing up in Macau:

Inevitably she arrives at the hotel that is the headquarters of the evil boss behind the evening's bloodshed. He is played by Simon Yam, so the roster of cool dude tough guy actors in "Exiled" is very deep. There isn't much for her to do at this point other than to listen while Francis Ng tells her where to go to find the gold and a boat waiting to sail on the morning tide:

HK-online through dleedlee.


  1. Hi ewaffle --

    Nice post. And yes, Josie Ho is a good actress who's already turned in her share of creditable performances. Since you're a fan, would highly recommend that you check out Pang Ho Cheung's "Dream Home" (which she also produced) when you can -- it's her best role and performance to date, IMNSHO.

    Have you (also) seen "Poker King" (2009), "The Drummer" (2007) and "Forever and Ever" (2001)? "Forever and Ever", BTW, is when I first really noticed her and Chapman To -- but looking further back, noticed that she also had a cool (though small) drummer girl-friend of Kelly Chen role in "Lost and Found" (1996).

  2. Thanks, YTSL--

    The reviews I have read--including Kozo at 'Love HK Film'--make "Dream Home" seem quite slasherific but with an unmistakable social message. I love the work of Edmund Pang Ho-Cheung so I will catch it as soon as possible.

    I don't know how I have missed getting "Lost and Found" so far...there are a lot of enthusiastic reviews and I will catch it soon.

  3. I agree with YTSL. I was lucky enough to see Dream Home here in NY at the Tribeca Film Festival and briefly met with Pang Ho-cheung. Dream Home is a must see and, as YTSL stated, Josie's best performance to date. The movie isn't perfect but it is darn close. A fun return to the days of category III =)

  4. Hi again ewaffle --

    Maybe you missed "Lost and Found" because for a long time, the DVD of it was of less than great quality. But, honestly, it's a really excellent film... even though it has Kelly Chen and Michael Wong in it! (OTOH, it also has Takeshi Kaneshiro at his sweetest in it... ;b)

  5. YTSL--

    It is interesting and a topic for another post who one can think he knows something about a topic--Hong Kong movies for example--and continue to stumble across huge lacunae in what he knows. ;->

    I should have "Lost and Found" in my DVD player in a few days. I think that Kelly Chen is both overrated and underrated. Overrated because those of us who were knocked sideways by her monstrous beauty tend to welcome her presence on the screen in almost anything and underrated by those who can see past her exquisite exterior to her almost total lack of acting talent but dismiss her in roles in which she is cast as a beautiful woman who doesn't do or say much.

    The worst case is when she makes a bad movie seem interminable--"Lavender" for example.

    Michael Wong should only be cast as a Chinese American or American Born Chinese person with bad Cantonese and even then his screen time kept to a minimum.

  6. Kingwho?

    The Tribeca Film Festival and the New York Asian Film Festival are only two of about one million reasons why I need to live in Manhattan again.

  7. ewaffle,

    This year was the first time I went to the Tribeca Film Festival. I didn't know Pang Ho-cheung was going to be there so it was a total surprise. I've only been going to the NYAFF for the last 3 years. I've known about it since it's second or third year but I live on Long Island and it's such a pain in the butt to go into the city. I'm attending a bunch of screenings at the NYAFF this year and while i'm really looking forward to attending.....i'm really not looking forward to shleping back and forth from where I train.

    Where in Manhattan did you live and when did you leave?