Go wild with Joy Ride, Chow Yun Fat the ace of One More Chance
Joy Ride (R21)
95 minutes, opens on Thursday
The story: Four Asian-American friends head to China on business. Almost immediately, their international adventure is waylaid by drug smuggling, lost passports, sex with the Chinese men’s basketball team and a K-pop send-up of American rapper Cardi B’s 2020 hit WAP.
Joy Ride is a directing debut by Malaysia-born screenwriter Adele Lim of Crazy Rich Asians (2018).
Not that this Hollywood comedy with its all-Asian creatives is a mere exercise in ethnic representation.
Neither is it just about showing how Asian women can party like the most debauched of Bridesmaids’ (2011) white chicks and The Hangover’s (2009) frat boys.
Hell, yeah, they can and they do, but the girls-gone-wild road trip is foremost a showcase for a riotous ensemble of actresses.
Ashley Park from Netflix romance series Emily In Paris (2020 to present) stars as American adoptee Audrey, a Washington State small-town corporate attorney sent to China to close a deal and, while there, searches for her birth mother.
Tagging along are Sherry Cola as her manic immigrant childhood bestie Lolo, who sculpts genitalia-inspired art, and Sabrina Wu as Lolo’s misfit cousin.
Audrey also reconnects with her college roommate, now a Chinese soap opera idol, played by Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu from Everything Everywhere All At Once (2023).
Each is a sharp comic personality and, together, the foursome synch in outrageous highs with support from Malaysian comedian Ronny Chieng as Audrey’s client.
Their friendship will be tested and their individual identities re-examined. The odyssey slips in openly emotional introspection on the Asian diaspora experience – what it is like to be Asian in the United States and an American in Asia – without dampening the zaniness.
Hot take: The uninhibited comedic talents are the joy in a raucous ride destined to be a sleeper hit.
One More Chance (PG13)
115 minutes, opens on Thursday
The story: Chow Yun Fat in his first film since the 2018 actioner Project Gutenberg is pathological gambler Water Ng, who learns to connect with the son (Will Or) with autism he never knew he had and become a better man.
What could be a greater nostalgic high than a movie starring Chow?
One such as the Hong Kong dramedy One More Chance, that also has the ageless Anita Yuen in the part of Water’s long-ago love, who offers him HKD$100,000 (S$17,210) to take in her teenage son for a month. Turns out the boy is his too.
The father-son bonding is predictable, and the lengthy final act in Water’s redemption journey is tear-jerking.
Anthony Pun directs, with Felix Chong of Project Gutenberg and the Infernal Affairs trilogy (2002 to 2003) scripting: they should have thought better of exploiting a character with special needs, likeably played by newcomer Or, for easy pathos.
But never mind all that. This is Chow’s show. The 68-year-old cinema legend sells it with his magnetism, so please leave whatever cavilling at the door.
One More Chance’s Chinese title, Don’t Call Me God Of Gamblers, winks at Chow’s glorious run in the 1990s God Of Gamblers series. Yuen was also in God Of Gamblers 3: The Early Stage (1996).
Water is a feckless middle-aged loser. He fled his Hong Kong debtors years earlier to start a neighbourhood barber shop in Macau with two buddies while continuing to dodge loansharks, and yet, Chow graces even this parody of a god of gamblers with jaunty charm.
The Hong Kong actor is a winning cutup, especially when clowning around with his salon sidekicks Alex Fong, Michael Ning and the late Liu Kai-chi in one of his final screen appearances.
Hot take: This sentimental melodrama has old-time pleasures including Chow and Yuen, and that is recommendation enough.