Friday, March 20, 2009

72) Tricky Brains (1991)

72) Tricky Brains (1991) Dir: Wong Jing Not Yet Released Date Seen: March 19th, 2009 Rating: 3.75/5

Writer/director Wong Jing has a bad, nay a terrible wrap for being one of the worst Hong Kong filmmakers of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Tricky Brains (1991), was made at the height of his career—one of six films he’s credited with directing that year—and its stars—Stephen Chow had eight roles that year while Andy “toilet song” Lau had thirteen—and hence its a prime example of his worst and/or best work, depending on your tolerance for extra cheesy, poorly timed and slipshod humor.

Jing’s films willingly sacrifice logic for the sake of more gags than any sane viewer can handle. Tricky Brains has a plot—a professional practical joker (Chow) is hired to pretend to be the son of Yan-chi (Ng Man Tat), a businessman and the father of Chi-Man Kit (Lau) because…well, we find that out much later for reasons undefined—but it’s negligible. That barebones set-up is just an excuse for the film’s loosely organized string of off-kilter gay jokes, impromptu off-key singing, sight gags, slapstick routines and costume changes—Lau’s fans should note that Tricky Brains is the first time Lau wears a muscle suit. The film’s superhuman, more spazzy than Bazzy level of energy is pretty infectious so long as the viewer is willing to accept that the film has no greater ambition than to throw several kitchen sinks’ worth of grade school-level humor at you.

Realistically, the film’s cast is the real reason to watch Tricky Brains, confirming my suspicion that nobody today goes out of their way to watch Jing’s films unless they’re trying to look ironic and/or kill a few brain cells. Like any physical comedian, Chow’s mugging is usually hit or miss, but Jing’s overcaffeinated script gives Chow an ideal amount of scenery to chew up. His supporting cast is, as always, terrific, especially Chingmy Yau as (wait for it) Banana Yau and Ng Man Tat, still the only mustachioed Hong Kong actor to look good in a dress (admittedly, I have yet to see Suet Lam wear one). Their nutty performances make it very hard to dismiss Tricky Brains because of its uncannily high camp content and harder to defend it as a guilty pleasure. More than likely, that’s what it and the rest of Jing’s films will remain for everyone but a few crazies like me.


  1. I have to say that Tricky Brains has to be one of Jing's better comedies. For reasons unknown, I spent most of 2006 attempting to watch 100 films starring Andy Lau and a large proportion of them were Wong Jing comedies which had a basic template of 10 minutes of plot setup, 70 minutes of a group of guys sexually harassing some poor woman (more often than not Rosamund Kwan) followed by a final 10 minutes were the initial plot is wrapped up.

    Although to be fair, the God of Gamblers films are quite good ... maybe it's a case of if you throw enough crap some of it is going to stick.

  2. Ha, that seems pretty accurate. I need to see more Wong Jing films. What can you recommend? I think I've only seen FUTURE COPS and this.

  3. Well, Future Cops is a classic :) It's been a while since I saw a Wong Jing film, but if my memory serves me right some of his more dramatic outings are far more interesting than his terrible comedies.

    Having had a look at my previous reviews, I would recommend the God of Gamblers series, Casino Raiders and A True Mob Story. They are the ones I've rated most highly. Although that only takes into account his movies starring Andy Lau :) I'm sure out of the 139 directing credits he has on IMDb, some of the non-Andy ones should be good.

    Anyway at the risk of a blatant attempt to pimp my site, if you want a brief synopsis of the Wong Jing films I've had the pleasure of viewing, they're all here:

    It's kind of like your blog, but less in-depth, not as well written and with a slower turn-over ... ;)

  4. You have stroked my ego well; kudos! ;0

    I'll definitely check it out because I do like a goodly bit of Wong Jing insanity in my life. Never even heard of A TRUE MOB STORY.