Simon YamGigi LaiSteven MaBen Ng
To Where He Belongs
Medium: film
Year: 2000
Director: Ally Wong
Writer: Jerry Chan Chi-Hang
Actor: Simon Yam, Gigi Lai, Steven Ma, Ben Ng, Ray Chan Kin-Wing, Sau Yue Chan
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Keywords: gangster, rubbish
Format: 89 minutes
Website category: Asian
Review date: 23 February 2012
I don't know if I'd say I hated it, but the main reason I didn't turn it off was because I was waiting for the bloody death of all of its characters. There's only one person here I wouldn't have pushed off a train and she gets about two minutes of screen time. That aside, though, the movie's reasonably efficient and well acted.
My main question mark, I think, is the extent to which I'm meant to be hating everyone. After all, these are not nice people. The nicest guy here (Simon Yam) is a Triad gangster, so already we're talking about someone who'd improve the world by leaving it. Nevertheless he has a code of honour, he treats his friends well and the only people we see him beating up are other gangsters.
He's scum, but at least he's superficially sympathetic scum. You can't say even that much of the others. Steven Ma is playing a gangster and a loser, repeatedly getting beaten up as he tries to extort protection money from women and eventually managing to start a gang war. He shoots his mouth off, annoys the audience (me) and comes across as a humiliating death by torture that's waiting to happen. My favourite scene of his involved other gangsters beating him up, cramming his own drugs into his mouth and then urinating on him. That was fun. I enjoyed seeing that. Admittedly he finds a girl halfway through and starts "working" twice as hard to make money for her medical treatment, but even that's classic loser behaviour because he's assuming she's his girlfriend despite the fact that she's never said so and in fact is interested in Simon Yam.
Steven Ma also has dyed his hair blonde, which is another reason to laugh at him.
Other gangsters inflict escalating levels of violence, but that's just the usual dick-waving. Some die, but not soon enough and in insufficient numbers. However there's also (gasp) a character in the film who's not a criminal! She's played by Gigi Lai and I hated her too. Her idea of flirting is to be a bitch, e.g. not returning your property even when you ask nicely for it, or else telling you lies and then sneering at you for believing her. Yam and Ma are both attracted to her, i.e. they're brain-damaged or desperate, and instead of making the situation clear, she ends up leading them both on until the final act involves an ugly three-way triangle with gangsters. You can forgive them for being confused, though, since Lai's behaviour when flirting is indistinguishable from how she talks and acts when she wants you to drop dead. Her catchphrase is "as you like".
In other words, it's impossible to see these people as sympathetic. This is clearly deliberate. Even the title underlines that. After all, it's a film called "To Where He Belongs" starring anti-heroes who provoked strong opinions in me as to where they belonged. The afterlife, perhaps. Jail. Shark-infested waters, in a group of screaming, panicking people who can barely swim and are bleeding. In that case, is this a moralistic tale about people who deserve what's coming to them? There's also a scene in which two tiny children see gangsters fighting in front of them and are so impressed that they emulate them and play at being violent gangsters themselves. The film clearly disapproves of what its characters are doing.
Nevertheless I'm still not sure. Look at Gigi Lai. She's got a life-threatening illness and can't pay for a cure. She visits her grandmother in hospital. These are not villainous traits. Admittedly the humour in the granny scene doesn't work and Lai just looks like a bitch again, but it doesn't seem clear to me that I was meant to be rejecting her as forcefully as I did. Similarly when the film goes into romance mode, I'm going to go out on a limb and presume I'm meant to give a shit. (Lai's kissing technique looks a bit weird, incidentally.) I'll give the film enough credit to say that it might have deliberately been creating complicated, rich characters who aren't as simple as "good" or "evil", but if that was the case then some lofty ambitions misfired.
The film looked cheap to me, but I was watching a VHS-quality copy. I'm hardly qualified to comment. Meanwhile the actors are reasonably well known and I thought they did okay. Simon Yam made a strong impact on me in a good way, despite the fact that I wanted him to die. He was cool. The other two were successfully unsympathetic, if that makes sense, although the possibility exists that they should have been more likeable. It's worth mentioning here though that there was one charming girl, with an engaging face and smile. She's even the first girl we see in the film. I'd have been happy had the movie been all about her, but no.
I think it's worth mentioning that imdb doesn't seem to have heard of this film. When movie doesn't make any noticeable waves, there's sometimes a reason for that. I think it played for about seven days in Hong Kong cinemas and I haven't yet found anyone who seems to like it much, although in fairness it's clearly aiming for something a bit more high-minded than the usual action nonsense. It's tragedy, if you like. However personally I was disconnected from it all and my reaction to any tragic events happening to our heroes was always, "yes, more." I'm sure mine was a stronger negative reaction than most people's, but speaking for myself, I wouldn't recommend this to a dog.
"Maybe I'm even inferior than a lighter." Clue: yes.