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Recalling everything from the ‘60s-era Matt Helm and Flint spy spoofs to such modern-day variations as the Austin Powers series, the Chinese import My Lucky Star at least provides one element of originality by giving a female spin to the genre. This tale of a mild-mannered young woman who becomes involved in an international conspiracy by teaming up with a master spy has an engagingly frothy quality that makes it go down easy. But its overall familiarity should make it a hard sell for American audiences despite the luminous presence of Zhang Ziyi (The Grandmaster, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) in the starring role.
The film, being released in North America day-and-date with China, is the first Chinese feature to be directed by an American woman, Dennie Gordon, whose previous credits include many TV series and the feature Joe Dirt.
Reprising the character she played in 2009’s successful Sophie Revenge, Zhang plays an unsuccessful comic book writer and illustrator who makes her living as a travel agent. Much of her day is spent drawing and daydreaming, her elaborate scenarios depicted onscreen via graphic panels and animated segments.
When she wins a trip to Singapore, her fantasies come to life as she meets the dashing secret agent David Yan (Leehom Wang, of Lust, Caution) who’s in pursuit of the “Lucky Star,” a diamond so large that it can apparently be used for destructive purposes. The villainous Charlize Wong (Terri Kwan) plans to use it to blow up Bermuda — the reasons for which, at least for this viewer, were lost in translation.
Sophie soon finds herself embroiled in a series of life-or-death situations, with her helpless bumbling often requiring her to be saved by the ever-resourceful David. Along the way, she attempts to help him in various ways that often exploit her considerable physical charms, most notably when she poses as a stripper to seduce a ruthless arms dealer.
Director Gordon stages the proceedings in glossily slick fashion, with the film benefiting from the visual allure of the two leads as well as such exotic locations as Hong Kong, Singapore and Macao’s Venetian Resort Hotel.
But with a running time of nearly two hours, the overall silliness wears thin rather quickly, and the reductive nature of Zhang’s lovestruck Sophie, who seems mostly interested in whether David is romantically interested in the female villain, doesn’t exactly make her a feminist ideal.
Opens Sept. 20 (China Lion)
Production: Bona International Film Group
Cast: Zhang Yiyi, Leehom Wang, Terri Kwan, Jack Kao, Zheng Kai, Yao Chen, Ruby Lin, Ada Choi
Director: Dennie Gordon
Screenwriters: Amy Snow, Chris Chow, Hai Huang, Yao Meng
Producers: Zhang Ziyi, Lucas Ling, Beaver Kwei, Second Chan, William Cheng
Executive producers: Yu Dong, Zhang Ziyi, Jeffrey Chan
Director of photography: Armando Salas
Editors: Zack Arnold, Ka-Fai Cheung
Production designer: Second Chan
Costume designer: Yi Tang
Composer: Nathan Wang
Not rated, 114 min.
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