Enter the Phoenix
Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei
Chinese Title: Daai lo oi mei lai
Director: Stephen Fung
Writing Credits: Stephen Fung, Lo Yiu Fai
Cast: Eason Chan, Daniel Wu, Karen Mok, Chapman To, Law Kar-Ying, Stephen Fung
Country: Hong Kong
Year Released: 2004
Runtime: 104 min
Rating: ** (out of four stars)
Gay-themed Asian films are pretty plentiful, but gay-themed comedies are a rare breed. Enter the Phoenix may seem like a gay-themed comedy, but frankly the gay aspect of the film can be removed totally without impacting the tale. Essentially its a new take on The Prince and the Pauper, where Sam (Eason Chan) assumes Georgies (Daniel Wu) identity and takes control of a Hong Kong triad. The only problem is that Georgie is gay, and Sam has to pretend to be gay, yet hide this pretension from the lackeys in the triad. So, essentially its a straight man playing a gay man playing a straight man, which is all fine and good until Sam falls in love with a rival triad boss daughter Julie (Karen Mok). Meanwhile, Chow Siu (Stephen Fung), in an attempt to avenge his fathers death, wants to usurp the position of "Georgie", and is willing to go to any lengths.
Enter the Phoenix is the debut directorial attempt by Stephen Fung, more known to be the pretty boy in most of the films he has appeared in. (Coincidentally this is also the first time Stephen Fung and Daniel Wu have collaborated in a film since their screen debuts in another gay-themed film, Bishonen.) And whilst there are some interesting flourishes in the film, the various aspects of Enter the Phoenix do not gel well together. The comedy is sporadically entertaining, especially when Chapman To and Law Kar Ying are involved, but when combined with the outlandish fight sequences, half-baked romance and piss-poor denouement, the result is a film that doesnt know which genre it belongs to, and not excelling in any of the genres it tries to cover. There is one redeeming point the special appearance of Ruhua, a Hong Kong actor that I hold close to my heart, and in as campy a role as ever.