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Genre: Comedy
Director: Eric Tsang and Patrick Kong
Cast: Jacky Cheung, Eric Tsang, Charmaine Sheh, Anita Yuen, Bosco Wong, Linda Chung, Stephy Tang, Lam Ka Tung, Kevin Cheng, Andy Hui, Kelly Cheng
RunTime: 1 hr 39 mins
Released By: GV & Scorpio East Pictures
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://72.tvb.com/

Opening Day: 11 February 2010


Past and present survival of the common man in the big city – ups and downs, laughters and tears….

In 1970s Hong Kong, rapacious landlords try to evict 72 tenants but sworn brothers Ha Kung (Eric Tsang) and Shek Kin (Jacky Cheung) help the group of 72 defeat the landlord (Lam Ka Tung) and landlady (Charmaine Sheh) and coincidentally rescue Pinky (Anita Yuen) from a planned forced marriage. When both sworn brothers fall for Pinky and propose to her, she flips a coin “heads or tails” and Ha wins her hand in marriage.

The sworn brothers become sworn enemies and Shek’s hatred fuels intense rivalry against Ha in business dealings ranging from the manufacture of plastic flowers to the selling of stinky bean curd. Even after 40 years they continue to clash and in 2010 they are in keen competition selling electronics appliances in Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mongkok, the busiest street in the city and still home to the 72 tenants.

In fiercely competitive Sai Yeung Choi Street high rents force businessmen to use every means to survive, with electronics shops employing pseudo models in sales promotion campaigns and comic shops offering foot-massage services by Lolita, etc. These ploys are minor compared with the tactics of the landlord (mainland actor) who threatens to close down the shops unless his demands for triple rental are met. Amidst this strife and struggle the street is hit by acid-attacks and in high spirits the 72 tenants unite and pledge to safeguard their home.

Against a background of fear and turmoil, with the old love triangle between Ha and Pinky and Shek still festering, the next generation of the Ha and Shek families embarks on their own heroic love affairs: MJ-style dancer Ha Junior (Bosco Wong) is fascinated by Shek’s daughter (Stephy Tang) who is a Japanese AV culture fan; Ha’s daughter (Linda Chung), a kung fu maiden, is pursued by Shek’s love-struck
son (Wong Cho Lam), the smart shortie. Affairs of the heart yet to be resolved.

Movie Review:

In the 1970s, there was a particular brand of comedy that Hong Kong films became known for. Affectionately known as “mo lei tau”, it was a literal “make no sense” type of humour that the Hui brothers (Michael Hui, Sam Hui and Ricky Hui) made popular through their crowd-pleasing hits “Games Gamblers Play” (鬼馬雙星), “The Private Eyes” (半斤八兩), “The Contract” (賣身契) and the classic “Aces Go Places” (最佳拍檔).

Loosely based on the 1973 Shaw Brothers film “The House of 72 Tenants”, it makes sense then that this latest Lunar New Year comedy “72 Tenants of Prosperity” pays homage to the “mo lei tau” comedies of the 1970s and 1980s- right down to singing one of Sam Hui’s signature tunes from the ‘70s, (半斤八兩). Indeed, it’s not hard to identify the various trademarks of a classic “mo lei tau” comedy in “72 Tenants of Prosperity”.

There’s the nonsensical parodies- among them, a hilarious spoof of Donnie Yen’s fight scene in “Ip Man” complete with an offhand tribute to Yen, as well as an equally amusing reference to Aaron Kwok’s disaster (disastrously bad, I mean) movie of 2009, “Murderer”. There’s also the witty verbal quips- Jacky Cheung’s character Shek Kin is the owner of the hand-phone shop “顶太 Phone”, and Eric Tsang’s pronounciation of “try your best”  that ends up sounding like “抓 your breast”. 

But no “mo lei tau” comedy could be complete without generous amounts of slapstick- and fortunately, “72 Tenants of Prosperity” has more than enough of that to last from start to end. Chief among the comedic setups is the rivalry between Cheung’s Shek Kin and Eric Tsang’s Ha Kung, both of whom are into the mobile phone business and own shops just opposite each other. Their rivalry also stems from their love for Pinky (Anita Yuen), whom Ha Kung wins the hand of after a coin toss (yes, go figure).

There are also various other subplots that directors Eric Tsang and Patrick Kong (who also co-wrote the film) milk for maximum comedic effect- Ha Kung’s son (Bosco Wong) falls in love with Shek Kin’s daughter (Stephy Tang) after an uproarious MJ-styled introduction; and Ha’s daughter (Linda Chung) fights (literally) hard to resist the romantic advances of Shek’s son (Wong Cho Lam) while trapped in a lift with the latter. Of course given the number of subplots, the movie does feel like a patchwork of gags stitched together, but hey that doesn’t mean it’s not amusing.

In fact, part of the fun in watching this second movie from the once-defunct Shaw Brothers and Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) after last year’s spinoff “Laughing Gor” is spotting the bevy of TVB stars that were cast in the movie. Those who have followed TVB dramas over the years will also have an added pleasure of spotting these stars hamming up their dramatic roles that once them popular- for example, Lawrence Ng in “Healing Hands” (妙手仁心), and Kevin Cheng and Kenneth Ma in “Burning Flame” (烈火雄心).

Admittedly, the record 174 stars reportedly cast in the film does make it a little too bloated for its own good, since that means it has little time to develop many of its characters or subplots. Not every one of the gags work too, or are as amusing as the one before, but the film unfolds at such a breakneck pace that what doesn’t work is soon replaced by something that does. So despite its messy, slightly incoherent narrative, you would do well to remember that this star-studded film is simply a delightful exercise in a distinctly Hong Kong brand of humour that has one aim and one aim only- to make you feel jolly and happy this New Year- and rest assured that this it will do.

[Afternote: This reviewer must admit that this is one Hong Kong film that has lost much of its intended humour thanks to its Mandarin-dubbed dialogue. In fact, there are entire chunks of exposition where the dialogue is incongruent with the subtitles- which only goes to show how much funnier this would be if shown in its original Cantonese.]

Movie Rating:

(Madcap humour ‘mo lei tau’ style and a whole host of TVB stars make for a very enjoyable Lunar New Year comedy)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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