Director: Adam Tsuei
Cast: Simon Yam, Ivy Shao, Kaiser Chuang, Lee Kang Sheng, Li Xing, Yu An Shun, Hou Yan Xi, Bernard Sen Jun, Angel Ho, Kurt Chou, Fung Kai, Aiko Chen
Runtime: 116 minutes
Rating: R21 (Sexual Scenes, Violence And Some Homosexual Content)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment & Shaw
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/TheTenantsDownstairs
Opening Day: 13 October 2016
Synopsis: A landlord (Simon Yam) gratifies his desire by peeping the darkest aspects of his tenants: Chang (Kaiser Chuang) , a lusty gymnastics teacher with a criminal record of domestic violence; Boyan (Hou Yan Xi), a college geek; Wang (Yu An Shun), a divorced father with his angel-like young daughter (Angel Ho); Yingru (Ivy Shao), a mysterious lady; the couple, Guo Li (Lee Kang Sheng) and Linghu (Bernard Sen Jun); and Miss Chen (Li Xing), a sexy office lady drowning in the endless forbidden love and affairs. A tale of incredibly perversion, breathless confusion and the lusty chaos of these eight tenants and their landlord.
Not everything is warm and fuzzy with Taiwanese writer Giddens Ko’s stories. The 38 year old, who has completed about 60 books, writes under the pseudonym of “Jiu Ba Dao” (which literally means “nine knives”).
Most of us may know how his “You Are the Apple of My Eye” (2011) and “Café. Waiting. Love” (2014) - which were adapted into successful romantic films - boasts eye candy ensembles and radio friendly soundtracks.
Things take an unexpected twist in his latest book turned movie: we are brought into the dark realms of human nature. Voyeurism, paedophilia, torture and murder are things no one is proud of, but are there if we look hard enough.
Adam Tsuei, who was the former president of Sony Music Entertainment in the Greater China Region, is the director responsible for bringing this tale to the big screen. A powerful personality in entertainment industry (he successfully marketed Ko’s previous film adaptations, as well as the Mainland Chinese hits Tiny Times and its sequel (2013). You wouldn’t expect anything less from the person who brought superstars like Jay Chow, Leehom Wang, F4 and Jolin Tsai to the music industry.
Tsuei has a huge challenge here: Ko’s story has a landlord (the ever reliable Simon Yam) in its spotlight. He runs an apartment resided by people you wish weren’t your neighbours. There are secret cameras placed in each quarter, allowing the landlord to pry into the tenants’ lives. There is a young man obsessed with online gaming and teleportation, an introvert gay teacher and student couple, a sexy office lady who has countless affairs with different men, a divorced gym teacher who turned violent with his ex wife, a pretty but mysterious girl always dressed in white, and a single father who lives alone with his young daughter. Seeing how these motley crew’s lives are bordering on boring, the landlord decides to play a part in spicing up their existence.
Rated R21 for sexual scenes, violence and some homosexual content, you wouldn’t think this is a family friendly drama – there are various kinds of sex acts, lots of blood and, ahem, other bodily fluids. We are pretty sure this kind of movie appeals to a selected group of viewers who take pleasure in such indulgent scenes where people are victimised by their own nightmares.
Amidst the bad things that happen in this twisted story of betrayals, addictions and seduction, there is a weird sense of humour that lingers throughout its 116 minute runtime. You giggle nervously as you see the various characters’ lives fall apart (we are not proud of that either), and you wish things will become increasingly sadistic to satisfy your darkest urges. It is also at this point you realise there is a lack of social analysis, as much can be discussed about the dynamics of human nature during the most trying circumstances.
Yam is accompanied by an ensemble cast with varying standards of performances. Li Xing stands out (rightfully so) as the woman engaging in infidelity, earning her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the upcoming Golden Horse Awards. Lee Kang Sheng pairs up with Bernard Sen Jun as the gay couple, with the younger actor showing his lack of experience in acting). Kaiser Chuang displays his fury and lust adequately as the gym teacher, while Hou Yan Xi is aptly entertaining as the college student who believes he can teleport.
This movie is a mixed bag of theatrics, but a darkly entertaining one (the high production value is a major plus point) if you are keen to explore the discomforting extent the human mind is capable of venturing into.
(This dark, twisted and sometimes funny movie has lots of nudity, sex and blood – if these are not your cup of tea, steer clear!)
Review by John Li