Director Wilson Chin returns to Hong Kong's famed nightclub district to follow the lives of numerous twenty-somethings as they navigate love, friendship and the future.
Director Wilson Chin has wasted no time between instalments of what must be the most hastily produced trilogy in film history. His latest hedonistic romp through the beautiful, vacuous party crowd of Hong Kong’s nightclub district represents a high-water mark (of sorts) for the series that kicked off way, way back in 2011.
If Chin excels at one thing, it’s knowing what his audience wants
Chin’s penchant for melodramatic plotting and occasionally cringe-inducing titillation means his films aren’t taken all that seriously by fans of upscale Asian cinema, but over the course of the three films he’s improved as a storyteller and developed a more assured technical hand. His leery obsession with nubile bodies and borderline soft-core imagery places him in the same company as exploitation maestros Russ Meyer and Zalman King, and like those auteurs, Chin may one day earn begrudging respect at the end of his career.
If Chin excels at one thing, it’s knowing what his audience wants. The very first frame of Lan Kwai Fong 3 is a rear-shot of G-string clad stunner, Jeana (Jeana Ho). A pulsating pre-credit sequence follows, during which we get an insight into the hedonistic lives of four friends: wild and spoilt rich kid Jo (Whitney Hui); Sara (Ava Yu), who’s unhappily engaged to Shin (Alex Lam) and flirting with betrayal; and Papa (Celia Wok), whose slightly imperfect visage makes her the brunt of one too many ugly jibes. (A thinly veiled line of misogyny runs through the film, which would prove a great deal more offensive if the male characters were any less buffoonish themselves).
The subplots unfold in line with the well-established template of the series. Each lady has a unique set of problems that are instantly recognisable to the target demographic—a boyfriend who won’t accept responsibility; an inability to feel love due to being wronged in the past; a lack of faith in one’s own beauty—all of which are handled with by partying away incessantly. By the time the traditionally cornball finale arrives (not quite as grotesquely bizarre as the 'walking backwards’ sequence in the second film, but still pretty nutty), each character has journeyed beyond the dance floor and dealt with their reality in a more-or-less mature fashion.
Fans of hardcore action will have to make do with the endless shots of cleavage, panties and bare shoulders before heading home to the internet; Chin shoots with one eye on the steam machine and the other on Chinese censorship laws. That said, each actress gives a great deal of herself during well-staged scenes of fornication, with Chin pushing his cast (and his lens) to the limit of what is officially acceptable.
Cynics will say that the shallowness of the drama and its wafer-thin personalities reflects the current twenty-something generation’s fascination with life’s most superficial pleasures; there is no denying the film is obsessed with image, brand names and peer acceptance. But Chin tempers the emptiness of the first film and the obnoxiousness of the second with a warmer outlook and generally more well-rounded character arcs in this third effort.