The Midas Touch (Chiu Kap Ging Lei Yan): Film Review
Up-and-coming Hong Kong director Andrew Fung Chih-chiang reteams with the star of his directorial debut, "The Bounty," for the film about a small-time thug’s struggle in nurturing seven talentless wannabes to stardom.
Delivering on-screen satires about the excesses of modern-day showbusiness has always been a thankless task. There are just too many known unknowns, which, when voiced, can lead to a lot of trodden toes.
It’s perhaps a surprise, therefore, that Hong Kong’s most prominent pop-factory has ventured to deliver a piece that wants to reveal the inner workings of the city’s entertainment industry – complete with scenes depicting lewd financiers, cineaste-wannabes and aspiring starlets being hawked to rich men as if they were escorts.
But the Emperor Motion Pictures-backed The Midas Touch is a comedy rather than a gritty glamor-debunking vehicle – and a safe, sanitized and ultimately simplistic one. Shelving the absurdist black humor, which marked his directorial debut The Bounty, Andrew Fung Chih-chiang’s first mainstream offering shapes up as a feel-good tale about an odd couple of showbiz agents – one a small-time crook who inherited a model agency, the other a slick professional discarded by the actor she helped to stardom. Both manage to bring fame and fortune to a motley crew of talentless people through sheer, selfless persistence.
True to its title, The Midas Touch does play out like the filmmakers’ pat on the back for the efforts of Hong Kong’s celebrity-carers – and, indeed, one of the film’s co-producers is Mani Fok, the veteran executive whose efforts have brought success to many stars of Emperor Entertainment Group. This endorsement of sorts has its downsides and upsides. Fok’s involvement (and Emperor’s backing) brings with it a melodramatic positivity that undermines any edge that the screenplay could dare to broach.
Meanwhile, the many in-jokes are boosted by the cameo appearances of the studio’s stars (including Fok herself, who plays, well, herself). This will allow the film to play well with the younger demographic in Hong Kong, but such emphasis might not help the film travel beyond the home front.
Before the real-life showbiz-Midas appears towards the end of the film, however, she is relayed on screen via the alter-ego of Suen Mei-mei (Charlene Choi), who finds herself relieved of her duties as the manager of JD (Gao Yunchang), an action-film star whom she helped attain A-list status. Pitched against her coolness is Mak Chiu (Chapman To), a debt-collector who somehow took over a broke borrower’s talent agency and its stable of seven photogenic yet completely clueless young women.
Having started off the wrong way – by trying to get the women to serve his rich contacts in a nightclub – he recruits Suen and then pledges his life – and life savings – to propel the wannabes – whom he has christened OMG for “Oh My Girls” – to the stratosphere.
Risque lines and visual gags are splattered along the way, and so are gratuitous showings of young flesh (mostly female, although one scene also features muscular men surrounded by the bikini-clad women), but The Midas Touch is not that kind of saucy comedy. It’s not an ode to romance dressed up as farce either. Romantic sparks hardly fly between Suen and Mak.
The problem with the film – which Fung co-wrote with Chan Hing-kai, the writer known for his many successful screenplays about feeble men and their masculine fantasies – is that it doesn’t seem to find a strong voice or footing in any of the generic themes it purports to offer. Fung and Chan could have capitalized on its young cast beyond merely their appearances; their reasons for wanting to make it in showbusiness could have been fused into the story (a la the hip-hoppers in the recent Hong Kong hit The Way We Dance) to add to the story’s panache.
The Midas Touch is all tinted with sitcom-like vignettes, but devoid of a core that showcases its narrative and its characters as the real, golden deal.
Opens Sept 5 (Hong Kong), Sept 6 (Mainland China)
Production Companies: Emperor Motion Pictures, Emperor Film Distribution (Beijing), Emperor (Beijing) Culture Development
Cast: Chapman To, Charlene Choi, Gao Yunchang, Deep Ng
Director: Andrew Fung Chih-chiang
Producers: Chan Hing-kai
Executive Producers: Albert Lee, Mani Fok
Screenplay: Fung Chih-chiang, Chan Hing-kai, Ho Wing-kei, Ng Wing-san
Director of Photography: Lam Chi-kin
Art Director: Chan Chat
Music: Eric Kwok, Law Seung-ching
Editor: Yau Chi-wai
International Sales: Emperor Motion Pictures
Running Time 98 minutes