Review: Gorgeous (1999)

The whimsical opening music of Gorgeous accompanies the narration of a romantic legend, while the camera pans across a dazzling night sky. This is promptly followed by a CGI fish burp gag. It’s not a movie to be taken seriously, but still ultimately wants to be a fairytale romance at heart. I can’t believe I watched this with my brothers back in the day without squirming.

Innocent, starry-eyed, Taiwanese girl Bu (Shu Qi) strikes out for the big city with a big dream in her heart — meeting her soul-mate and living happily ever after. When her dream seemingly shatters not long after landing in Hong Kong, she later rescues playboy business mogul C.N. Chan (Jackie Chan) and sets about winning his heart.

As well as the romance, there’s also the bromance, with a parallel plot following C.N.’s long-standing rivalry with business competitor L.W. Lo (Emil Chau). This relationship provides the excuse for most of the action in the film, although this is on the easygoing side as well. L.W. is no villain, he’s simply trying to prove he’s a match for C.N. Amid this light-hearted atmosphere, two suicide plot points strike an oddly dark note.

The two main stories criss-cross over the course of the movie, but clearly the Bu/C.N. bond is the centrepiece. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work. C.N. himself is just not very likeable. He not only comes across as, something he freely admits to being — a detached loner. He’s also a bit of a jerk to the people he does interact with. All up he doesn’t seem like a great catch — apart from his money, except it’s established that this is of little interest to Bu. It’s a bit unusual for a film like this to have the girl doing most of the pursuing, but I have to wonder what she sees in him and I don’t think that’s jealousy speaking.

The other main problem is the age difference between the characters. Neither Jackie nor Shu Qi were originally cast in the film, so it may have been more believable with different actors, but that’s how it ended up. In real life there is 22 years between them, but it seems like at least another 10 in the movie. It’s to the script and the actors’ credit — particularly Shu Qi — that this seems less weird than it is. Bu is so much the confident romantic idealist, it keeps the focus on the platonic happily-ever-afterness of the romance rather than anything exploitative. The reminders of C.N.’s reputation as a rich playboy, however, are a misstep, and the age gap is never completely forgotten.

At least there are some lively and oddball supporting stereotypes around to provide some distraction. Tony Leung Chiu Wai plays the man inadvertently responsible for touching off the whole adventure and who reluctantly assists Bu in her romantic quest. Tats Lau is C.N.’s long-suffering butler with the deadpan face. Richie Ren plays Bu’s unwanted admirer, whose shabby attire and shaggy mullet perhaps make C.N. a bit more attractive in contrast. There’s L.W.’s gaggle of goofy goons and a whole bunch of cameos from the likes of Daniel Wu, Sandra Ng, Stephen Chow and the film’s writer/director Vincent Kok, although many of these are cut from the international version.

Given Jackie Chan’s in the movie, unsurprisingly some action is too, and it’s pretty good. There’s nothing too elaborate, but the artistry and technical chops are definitely up to standard. Aussie stunt team member Bradley James Allan was popping up on screen from the time of Mr. Nice Guy and his match-ups with Jackie here are superb. Having fought with almost every prop imaginable over the years, Jackie proves this is a creative choice and not because he can’t pull off great work with only fists and feet. The rhythm of the fights is excellent, and noticeable even to the characters watching. Rapid exchanges of blows often go on for quite a while without edits and the speed of the sparring is almost too fast to follow at times. Although the character of Alan — yes, really — is introduced mere minutes before he’s fighting, he’s still given a fun little build-up. An elegant touch has him strip C.N. of his jacket in seconds, whereas the same feat took multiple opponents a lot longer in an earlier scrap. I’m happy to call these fights Jackie’s best one-on-one battles since Wheels on Meals.

Surveyed as a whole, Gorgeous is faintly reminiscent of Miracles, in that its focus lies elsewhere with some action thrown in. There’s even a tracking shot following the female lead through a large interior in both films. Gorgeous is the lesser of the two by a fair way, but it’s nice to see Jackie try something less silly, even if he’s not that great at it. While it fails to gel as a whole, individual elements of this movie are nevertheless enjoyable entertainment.

6.5 dolphin buddies out of 10.
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