Publicity Stills of "Moonlight In Tokyo"
Courtesy of Shaw

Genre: Drama/Comedy
Director: Alan Mak, Felix Chong
Starring: Leon Lai, Chapman To, Yang Gwei-Mei, Michelle Ye
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: NC-16

Opening Day: 5 January 2006


Intellectually impaired he might be, JUN (starring Leon Lai) is only dumb but not silly. Abandoned by his family on a trip to Tokyo with only a few notes in his pocket, he thinks he has found his guardian angel when he bumps into a former classmate, HOI (starring Chapman To). But Hoi is no angel at all. He is just a grafter on the run from Yakuza loan sharks.

When YAN (starring Yang Gwei-Mei), the owner of an escort service, is convinced the ingenuous Jun will make a perfect gigolo. Hoi decides to transform his pal into Tokyo’s most sought-after Lothario in order to eke out a living and to pay his debts. Together the odd couple thus embark on a hilarious adventure, or misadventure so to speak, worming their way into the hearts of desperate housewives and office ladies in Japan.

Though Hoi constantly takes advantage of Jun in every possible way. Jun’s generosity and unquestionable trust gradually changes his cynical view of life. A magical bond soon develops between them, sealing their destiny on the most mysterious way.

Movie Review:

This movie has many selling points. It is directed and produced by the team behind the Infernal Affairs trilogy. It is shot entirely in Tokyo, Japan. Its cast includes the always reliable Chapman To and Yang Kuei-Mei. Its male lead is Leon Lai, who plays a dumb male prostitute. Okay, this last selling point may not exactly be everyone’s cup of tea.

With this mish-mash of factors in place, does it warranty a trip to the theatres to catch this flick? Only if you are looking for an average cinematic experience, we’d say.

To be fair, there is some potential for great drama in its story. Abandoned by his family in Tokyo, the intellectually impaired Jun (yes, it has to be Lai playing this role) chances upon his ex-classmate Hoi (To in another customized role).

Jun looks up to Hoi and thinks the latter can help him. Alas, Hoi is in trouble with the local loan sharks and plans to make use of Jun to help him make money as a gigolo. And as you would have guessed by now, a series of misadventures follows.

No offence to die-hard fans of Lai here, but acting dumb isn’t exactly going to add acting credibility to the Heavenly King’s here. The Best Actor at the 2002 Golden Horse Award was doing fine in films like Three (2002), Golden Chicken 2 (2003) and Leaving Me, Loving You (2004). But watching him in his latest work may be irking to some because he does not have the endearing appeal.

Thankfully, there is To who effortlessly carries off the role of the good-for-nothing “friend” with an ulterior motive. Also, there is award-winning Yang in the role of an owner of a local escort service. Despite her limited screen time, she is a joy to watch; especially when her original voice is heard (the other cast members’ original Cantonese voices are dubbed over in awkward Mandarin).

As mentioned earlier, the plot does show some promise for development between the two male leads. However, it seems to be more interested in creating slapstick moments along the way and the humour level can only sustain itself for so long. Eventually, it becomes a tiresome watch.

The bond between Jun and Hoi may not come through nicely as planned, but the relationship between Hoi and his wife is worth looking out for. In her big screen debut, Michelle Yeh plays Hoi’s ex-wife who left him because of his tardiness.

Yeh plays her role with such tenderness and sensitivity that given their relationship’s small part in the entire movie; it stands out as the best segment in the 95 minutes. Look out for the touching scene at the carnival, where emotions are felt without the use of dialogue.

When the movie reaches its last 20-odd minutes, it suddenly shifts gear into a murder mystery and takes a melodramatic turn. Given its entirely different feel before that, this concluding chapter seems rather out of place, though it can be felt that there is some decent effort in moving the audience.

As the entire movie was shot on location in Tokyo, one can expect dazzling lights and visually pleasing displays throughout the movie. Unfortunately, these brilliant lights in Tokyo are not enough to cover up for the slipshod storytelling and Lai’s jarring performance.

Movie Rating:

(Another average Hong Kong production which you may watch, laugh and forget)

Review by John Li


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