Director: Au Cheuk Man
Cast: Dominic Ho, Candy Yuen, Jeana Ho, Hazel Tong, Winnie Leung
Runtime: 1 hr 37 mins
Rating: R21 (Sexual Scenes and Nudity)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 7 May 2015
Synopsis: Fung is a super-heartthrob and was born with a special endowment, making him the high school idol. He was expelled from school when he was caught fighting on campus. When his mom, the sole provider of his family with her poultry business, had to stop working due to her back problems, Fung decides to support his family financially. And from that moment, his life takes on a tumultuous change…. Fung starts out as a janitor at his cousin Hung’s house of male prostitution, but his other services are demanded by regular patron Yoyo. Desperate for money, Fung cannot resist the “$10,000 per night” offer and tries his best, but he makes his share of rookie mistakes and embarrassments. It also doesn’t help that star gigolo Chris tries to jeopardize his career at every turn, causing him shame and frustration…
There’s no other way to say this – ‘The Gigolo’ is a terrible film.
Its Chinese title may suggest a throwback to the Cat III movies of the 80s and 90s, and at least at the start, that seems to be what writer/ director Au Cheuk-Man was aiming for. Indeed, it would be fine if Au wanted his movie to be no more than a sex farce, but no, halfway through the farce, he decides that he ought to make it some moving drama about how the shy, mild-mannered teenager who overcomes his inhibitions not by choice but by circumstance and becomes the titular ‘King of Gigolos’ is now tragically prevented from falling in love despite having found his soulmate. The result is one of the most ludicrous plot contrivances we’ve seen in a while, enough really to make us go limp, if you catch our drift.
The gigolo at the centre of Au’s film is Ho Kui-Fong (played by ‘Lan Kwai Fong’s’ Dominic Ho), who relates his ‘coming-of-age’ story beginning from his high-school days as a basketball player who crosses path with a gangsterly schoolmate that happens to be in love with the same girl. Their disagreement boils over when that same schoolmate tries but fails to frame his fellow player for drug possession and then demands compensation for it in return; expelled from school, and forced to support his family after his mother hurts her back, he goes to work at his aunt’s (Elena Kong) club as a janitor, where due to his clean-cut looks, he gets some of her regular clientele excited at seeing ‘fresh meat’.
Egged on by his aunt, Fung decides to make his maiden foray into the skin trade but ends up humiliating himself by ‘cumming’ too early in front of Yoyo (Hazel Tong) and seasoned veteran Chris (TVB star Ronan Pak). That forms his resolve to seek out Absom, who has a reputation for being ‘king of the gigolos’ and which he eventually does. In one of its most self-aware moments, the filmmakers have cast former Cat III actor Pal Sin as Absom, whose training of Fung includes getting the latter to lick a coin against a mirror so quickly that it stays on the surface and using his fingers against a woman’s body as if he were playing the piano. These scenes are arguably the most entertaining bits of the movie, but their pleasures are not new – fans of Hong Kong Cat III sex comedies will recognise the similarities with Chapman To’s ‘Naked Ambition II’, where he received similar training under veteran Japanese AV actor Taka Kato.
Whereas To’s earlier film was a self-aware parody of the well-established Japanese AV industry, Au's own chronicle of one man’s rise to fame (pun intended) is entirely self-serious, so much so that any hint of humour is in fact unintentional. Unfortunately for its sake, it actually is funny, but only because it is jaw-droppingly daft without knowing it. Why should a bunch of thugs out to collect a debt end up hacking their debtor to death, while leaving the debtor’s family member right next to him virtually unscathed? What are the odds that one of Fung’s regular clients, Michelle (Candy Yuen), turns out to be the stepmother of his girlfriend Chloe (Jeana Ho)? What are the odds that Fung’s aunt happens to be in debt as well, such that she would hand over a personal video of Fung at work in her club servicing her clients to Michelle so that the latter can wreck her stepdaughter’s relationship with her gigolo?
We get that plot isn’t necessarily one of the strong suites of a movie like this, but Au’s intention to draw sympathy for Fung and his awkward predicament having ‘f**ked’ both his girlfriend and her stepmother is simply hilarious. That doesn’t even begin to describe the finale, which is so ludicrous it deserves an award of its own. Besides a jealous husband and an equally envious stepmother, there is also a vindictive step-daughter and rape and murder thrown in for good measure. It is utterly absurd to say the very least, and the worse part is that it is only just icing on the cake – or to be more accurate, the hovering fly on top of the stinking pile of turd that this maudlin and woefully filmed drama is.
Since character is just as inconsequential here, the acting is just as forgettable; instead, what you’re probably interested to know is how much skin each actor or actress shows. Like what you’ve already heard, Candy Yuen goes topless for a number of sex scenes in the movie, but don’t count on the former Miss Hong Kong contestant to set your pulse racing. On the other hand, Jeana Ho is all tease and no show, so those looking for her to follow in the footsteps of Yuen might as well banish that thought. Females however will likely get a kick out of seeing Dominic Ho bare (almost) all for the camera, and it doesn’t hurt that he does look great in the role.
And yet, as the saying goes, beauty is just skin deep, so if you’re looking for skin and nothing else, then yes you’ll get some of that in ‘The Gigolo’. Even so, to sit through one and a half hours of tedium just to get to those scenes is hardly worth the while, and it is not even as if the wait can be called foreplay to begin with. Rather than turn this into some melodrama about the plight of a reluctant teenager turned professional gigolo, Au would have done his film and himself a favour by making a straightforward comedy instead of one that ends up being unintentionally so. No wonder then that even Wong Jing himself stepped away from making this farce of a farce after all – yes, it really is that bad.
(Neither an amusing riff on the genre nor the affecting melodrama it wants to be, this terrible excuse for a Cat III film will leave you limp and wanting)
Review by Gabriel Chong