Friday, August 5, 2011

Grace Lam and Sophie Ngan in "Hooker's World"

“Hooker’s World” has its problems. It was shot and cut as if the director and editor learned their craft from watching American soap operas—there are lingering close-ups that end almost every scene and actors who always look vaguely troubled or perplexed. There are very few sets and the ones they have look cheap and flimsy. The costumes looked like the actors simply showed up in their casual clothing and didn’t change—the lovely Grace Lam for example, wears a T-shirt with a small Batman logo for most of the film. This is a very static movie, with little movement within the frame—actors sat or stood and talked to each other. Not even the make-up was done well or even correctly. Grace Lam used a lot of glitter in her eye shadow and mascara so there were little flashes of light whenever she blinked—an interesting and most likely unintended effect.

The picture on the DVD cover would have gone a long way in redeeming "Hooker's World" if it had been part of a scene but it wasn't.

The script is a puzzle of crooked cops, righteous pimps and whores with hearts of gold On one side there is a pimp who lives with five of his prostitutes and his mother (Teresa Ha Ping) in an apartment. The pimp Luke (Ronnie Cheung Ho-Lung) is a real gentleman, the hookers are cooperative and friendly with each other and mom stays in the kitchen cooking for the crew. The other side is the anti-vice unit of the police force. One of their operatives, played by Simon Loui Yu-Yeung, is also an enthusiastic consumer of services offered by hookers. He has terrible timing—he was the last customer of one of Ronnie’s girls shortly before her murder. Grace Lam plays on both teams—she is an undercover officer sent to infiltrate Luke’s operation, not as a sex worker but as his girlfriend from the Mainland.

Grace Lam with a gun and then looking concerned

Two scenes show are emblematic of the trouble with “Hooker’s World”. In the first Grace Lam Nga-Si is shown folding clothes. There is a THIRTY-SIX second scene with two shots of her taking blouses from hanger and putting them into her suitcase. She is very efficient and looks lovely while folding but there is simply no reason to watch her.

Tilted Grace Lam

The second scene is ONE MINUTE AND FIFTY-THREE SECONDS of Simon Loui sitting in his apartment dialing a number on a cell phone and not getting through. He called about five times, paced a bit, then lit a cigarette and turned on the television—and did nothing else. It was one of the most astonishingly uncinematic two minutes of screen time I have ever seen.

Sophie Ngan trying to figure things out

There are actors who could make stuff like that interesting. If Maggie Cheung was filmed folding and putting away every costume in the Shaw Brothers wardrobe department I would be first in line to buy a ticket. I would love to see a movie of Juliette Binoche dialing every number in the Paris phone book and not reaching anyone. Grace Lam and Simon Loui simply aren’t able to pull it off.

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