Michael Hui Capsule Reviews

Michael Hui Capsule Reviews

Games Gamblers Play (1974) — January 7, 2014

Less episodic than some of the Huis’ later films, it follows a mostly conventional plot structure about gamblers trying to make it big. Neat twist with Sam being terrible while Michael is actually a pretty good guy.

The Private Eyes (1976) — December 5, 2013

Pretty fun, but doesn’t have the classical silent movie-style gag construction that I so loved in The Contract. The ending just kind of fizzles rather than escalating. Early in the film there’s a chase/fight sequence that is pretty much perfect, and what Sam does to Michael’s car is awesome. With Richard Ng as a cop/straight man, which just feels wrong after seeing him so often as the comic weirdo in Sammo Hung’s films.

Security Unlimited (1981) — December 13, 2013

“A clever man’s words often make the stupid roar with laughter.”

Teppanyaki (1984) — March 14, 2017

Got me a movie
Ha ha ha ho
Slicing off eyebrows
Ha ha ha ho

Girlie so groovie
Ha ha ha ho
Don’t know about you
But I am un chef teppanyaki

I am un chef teppanyaki
I am un chef teppanyaki
I am un chef teppanyaki

Michael Hui plays a teppanyaki chef who desperately wants to cheat on on his wife with Sally Yeh. He plays tennis with a frying pan, he break-dances in a full leg cast, he recreates chase scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark in the Philippines, he hangs from neon signs like Harold Lloyd, he sings “Only You” with a couple of black guys after having his face and hair fried by a hot dog machine.

This is a very silly movie.

Chicken and Duck Talk (1988) — March 18, 2017

Michael Hui owns a slovenly BBQ duck restaurant that’s threatened by the ultra-modern fried chicken joint moving in across the street. Highlights include Michael and Ricky Hui fighting while dressed as giant fowl, Sylvia Chang brightening an otherwise throwaway role as Michael’s wife, Sam Hui’s cameo as himself, and the lovely pinks and greens of Derek Wan’s cinematography (this may just be the transfer, but this is the prettiest Hui movie I’ve seen).

Clifton Ko directed and co-wrote the screenplay (with Hui), and it’s much more conventional than Hui’s directorial efforts, like it’s trying to be a real movie with some kind of a moral message instead of a thin excuse for slapstick genius. Which I guess makes it Hui’s A Night at the Opera. It’s still very fun, but not the anarchic masterpiece that was The Contract (his Duck Soup).

Godspeed (2016) – July 11, 2017

Taiwanese director Chung Mong-hong’s Godspeed starts like any other gangster picture: a mysterious man is led by mysterious men to a red room in Thailand for a tense and bloody encounter. Then we see that same mysterious man in calmer times, discussing sofa maintenance with a crime boss. Then a young man is sent on a mission, apparently a killer for hire or some other kind of mob underling. All he needs is a ride, but the cab that picks him up is driven by Michael Hui.

Hui is one of the great comedy directors and stars of the past 50 years. His series of hits in the 1970s and 80s helped revive the Cantonese language in cinema and form the missing link between the classical American comedy tradition to the nonsense films of Stephen Chow. He presence in this Taiwanese film alone is enough to destabilize it, and he does, playing one of his trademark characters, a sad sack cheapskate hustler. His oddball brings out the absurd in gang movie cliches, while the moody suspense and violence bring out the melancholy in Hui’s everyman struggles. The resulting film is too shifty to grasp, moody and ephemeral, grippingly bleak and cruel, yet sad and somehow weirdly hopeful.