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Hong Kong Nocturne: The Films of Johnnie To

Wednesday, June 4, 2008
7:30 p.m. Running on Karma
Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai (Hong Kong/China, 2003)

(Daai chek liu). Those seeking a Buddhist monk turned male stripper who can see past lives and predict the future (while battling murderous Indian contortionists) need look no further than To’s delirious fantasy, one of the oddest genre mash-ups to emerge from Hong Kong (or the world) in recent years. Andy Lau, alarmingly large in a prosthetic muscle-suit, is the unimaginatively named Biggie, a bodybuilder/nude dancer who entertains drunken women, flies through the air, fights evil, and senses people’s past incarnations. A chance encounter with klutzy cop Lee (Cecilia Cheung) turns into a possible romance, as long as Biggie can ignore (or change) her doomed future. Both comic-book and scripture-book, like Spider-Man rewritten by the Dalai Lama, Running on Karma barely blinks an eye as it matter-of-factly presents a contemporary Hong Kong where personal redemption and religious salvation go hand in hand with strip clubs, bodybuilding contests, dramatic beheadings, skyscraper-crawling villains, and centuries-old karmic vengeance.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Wai, Yai Nai-hoi, Au Kin-yee, Yip Tin-shing. Photographed by Cheng Siu-keung. With Andy Lau, Cecilia Cheung, Cheung Siu-fai, Chun Wong. (93 mins, In Cantonese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Tai Seng Entertainment)