Review: THE BOUNTY Fails To Collect
After a successful decade writing for the likes of Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, CJ7), Johnnie To (Sparrow) and Law Wing Cheong (Hooked On You, Punished), screenwriter Fung Chih Chiang finally takes a swing at directing with this light-hearted crime caper based on his own script. The increasingly ever-present Chapman To stars as low level Guangzhou bounty hunter, Cho, who will track down anything from criminals to missing pets in order to eke out a living. When his agent, Boss Tony (Wen Chao), sends him to a remote Hong Kong island in search of a ruthless thief wanted for assaulting a young bride, Cho soon finds himself caught up in the antics of eccentric hotelier Suen (Alex Man) and his oddball daughter, Linda (Fiona Sit).
Nothing could be more pleasing than seeing Chapman To cement his position as a credible leading man, and after Wong Jing's Mr. & Mrs. Gambler, Pang Ho Cheung's Vulgaria and now The Bounty, he has certainly proven he can carry a film, regardless of its overall quality. His role here as bumbling grifter Cho, is perfect for To's particular brand of comedic repartee, however Fung's script also asks us to believe that Cho is a formidable martial artist, which proves a harder pill to swallow. To does his best with what he has, but at no point do we believe that he is capable of winning any of the scuffles he gets himself into, and it proves an unnecessary character trait that only lessens the strength of To's performance.
Incidentally, all three of the films previously mentioned have cast To opposite the disarmingly kooky Fiona Sit, and as chambermaid Linda, moonlighting as an astrology columnist while helping her mentally-scarred father run the Lazy Inn, she is as delightfully weird as ever. 2012 is sure to be a pivotal year in the careers of both these actors and the prospect of them becoming a long-running onscreen couple is an exciting one. That said, The Bounty is unlikely to be one of their more successful pairings. While their onscreen chemistry is believable enough, the film just isn't very good.
In many respects The Bounty resembles a traditional Western, centring as it does around a stranger riding into an isolated community looking for a man with a price on his head. Eveything from Cho's wardrobe to the wood-panelled Lazy Inn would be better suited to the wild frontier than present-day Hong Kong, and Cho even carries a gadget-laden suitcase with him, in a nod to Franco Nero's infamous gunslinger, Django. However, as the film goes on Fung appears to lose interest in paying hommage to the Western genre, which is a shame because it was working quite well.
Fung's apparent attention deficit disorder lies at the heart of what is wrong with The Bounty and goes some way to explaining why it fails to capitalize on its likable leads and early promise. Fung's script seems unable to stop introducing new characters and subplots, even well into the second half of the film. The result is a narrative that never finds a clear path and a film that lacks any discernible structure. Just when you think you have identified who the bad guys are and where the conflict and resolution is going to come from, Fung throws in a whole new set of characters determined to make the film be about them.
The film's pacing is another serious concern, opening with a spritely skip in its step, only to make 99 minutes feel like an excruciating eternity. Without a clear vision or strong editorial hand to guide him, what should have been a lightweight and amusing diversion turns into a gruelling chore under Fung's direction. On the strength of this first effort behind the camera, Fung should seriously consider taking on an experienced collaborator for any future ventures into directing, as The Bounty misses the mark by some distance.
Around the Internet: