Movie Review: Chungking Express (1994)

Posted: November 29, 2012 in Comedy, Romance

He Zhiwu (Takeshi Keneshiro) is a cop, badge 223.  Cop 223 is heartbroken, his girlfriend May just broke up with him.  He calls May’s parents with the pretext of asking about their health, when really he wants to know what’s going on with his ex.  Cop 223 jogs incessantly since the breakup to sweat so that he wouldn’t have enough liquid for tears.  He has been storing up pineapple cans for the month of April with the expiry date of May 1st and vowing that his relationship with May will break up on May 1st, cop 223’s 25th birthday.  On May 1st, He Zhiwu eats all the pineapple goes to a bar, and gets drunk, in his drunken stupor, he pledges to fall in love with the first person he meets.  Unbeknownst to him, the first person he meets is the Woman in the Blonde Wig, (Brigitte Lin) the woman in the wig is a drug runner, whose Indian drug mules have run away, and she’s got to find them.  The last thing she needs is a lovesick heartbroken cop following her around like a lost puppy.  Does a romance develop between the drug runner and the cop?

Another cop, badge number 663 (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) has had his heart broken by an airline stewardess, and pines for her return, by talking to a bar of soap and his old face towel  in his empty apartment.  Into 663’s lonely life walks Faye (Faye Wong) a waitress from the Midnight Express restaurant 663 frequents.  Faye learns about the breakup by reading a dear John letter from the stewardess to the cop.  The letter also contains 663’s apartment keys, so Faye naturally breaks in.  She means no harm. She starts to redecorate, making the house a little more Feng Shui, she buys new fish for the fish tank, new soap for the bathroom, new towels, and even makes him sardines and re-labels them.  663 catches her in his apartment a few times, but he can’t be mad at Faye, because he notices the changes to the apartment and he likes them, and he likes Faye’s bright, sunny spirit.  663 finally asks Faye out.  Does she accept?  Do the waitress and the cop find happiness together?

Wong Kar Wai is an art-house movie director and writer from Hong Kong.   One thing that is thematically central to every Wong Kar Wai movie is heartbreak.  Heartbreak is something that most people can relate to, I am sure that more people have had their heart broken than live as deliriously happy people.  I would recommend Chungking Express more than Wong Kar Wai’s other movies, because it has a sense of humor.  The men in this movie do some crazy stuff, out of pure loneliness.  Cop 223 argues with a store clerk, begging for a can of pineapple with the expiry date of May 1.  Cop 663, after his house gets flooded. talks about his house crying out of sadness and compares it to his own sadness.  This is really a movie with two vignettes, I must say I liked the second vignette more than the first, it was more of a complete thought, somehow the first vignette seemed incomplete, and ended too abruptly.  Sometimes, Wong Kar Wai gets too art-house for his own good, some of the stop-motion type photography is unnecessary and detracts from the story.

I also wish is that Wong Kar Wai had spent a little more time on the female characters.  Why the woman is in the blond wig become a drug runner?  Why is she with such a scumbag of a boyfriend?  Why does she go home with cop 223?  She is a real enigma.  Why does the stewardess leave cop 663?  She seems superficial, but is that all there is to her?  What about Faye, she seems happy go lucky on the outside, but it’s clear that she’s been hurt and she has trouble committing to 663, even though she may want to commit.  We don’t see or hear from May in the first vignette at all, so we have no idea what drove her away.  Was 223 too clingy?

Chungking Express.  It’s about men who can’t express themselves.

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