In a world wracked by reboot culture, the decision to sequelize the Golden Chicken franchise is an interesting one. The first film and its sequel were released in 2002 and 2003 respectively, and then the series went dark. But eleven years later, a new director decided to revisit the protagonist as she has aged and changed. With an almost entirely new cast of characters, it feels like a different film than its predecessors. Like Kam, cinema has changed in the last eleven years.
And maybe that’s the brilliance of making a sequel now. How better to really grapple with the idea of aging and a loss of place than to revive an old franchise with its lead intact? Even if that franchise is a raunchy sex comedy following the adventures of a prostitute.
[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]
Golden Chickensss (金雞SSS)
Director: Matt Chow
Country: Hong Kong
[Full disclosure: I have not seen Golden Chicken 2. My guess is it’s a lot like the original, but I can’t say for sure. The New York Asian Film Festival is only screening the original and the threequel, so that’s what I’m going off of. Chances are, you haven’t seen Golden Chicken 2 either. Heck, chances are you haven’t seen Golden Chicken 1. Take that as you will.]
Years later, Kam (Sandra Ng) is no longer a prostitute. She’s a madam now, running her own brothel in Hong Kong, and she has become quite the saleswoman. But she’s getting older, and trends are changing. She isn’t totally behind the times, but it’s definitely a different world, and competitors use her age against her. Other girls come over from Mainland China and she ends up taking her horde over to Japan trying to learn some new tips and tricks.
As in the original (and presumably its follow-up), Golden Chickensss makes liberal use of cameos. Sometimes it’s actors playing themselves (Donnie Yen dressed as Ip Man is brilliant), and other times it’s people (singers and other non-actors) showing up as ridiculous characters. Not being entrenched in that culture, I missed a lot of the cameos at the time, but what I did get I enjoyed and if you know more than me about Hong Kong celebrities than I do (not hard) you’ll get extra enjoyment from that.
One of the oddest things about Hong Kong sex comedies is how much they don’t show. An American sex comedy will go all out with penises and breasts galore, but Hong Kong films simply don’t. They function on the implication of nudity rather than the actual appearance of it. There is a scene in Golden Chickensss where characters are having a glory-hole blowjob contest, but while I’m kinda glad they don’t show any more than they do, it’s silly to watch them trying to fellate the air. And this film is pretty gosh darn raunchy. I mean, it opens with the invention of prostitution (an absolutely bizarre sequence that had me wondering if I was watching the right movie). And while it never gets quite that weird again, it continues to be pretty absurd.
But things take a turn when Brother Gordon gets out of prison. Formerly a high-ranking gangster, and Kam’s lover/boyfriend/something like that, he is thrust into a world that he does not understand. His minions have all abandoned him and though they remain “criminals,” their new work entails scalping tickets and faking protests. Gordon is too proud for that kind of grunt work, and he rejects it outright. In the process, he loses everyone except for Kam. And then the film turns serious, as the two of them are forced to confront the reality that they are no longer the youthful pair that ruled the world.
Kam may know how to Whatsapp people (Gordon does not), but she’s not getting any younger. And Gordon left prison to find out that there’s no longer a need for him, or even people like him. It’s bizarrely poignant, made all the more relevant by the implied journey of these characters. It’s always odd to see a franchise come back. Tron: Legacy, The Army of Darkness, and arguably the newer Star Wars films have done the same thing. They took stories that were presumed dead and resurrected them. It’s a nostalgic thing for some people, but Golden Chickensss crushes those rose-colored glasses and confronts its characters with the reality: everyone else has moved on. They need to adapt, and if they won’t or can’t, then that’s the end.
What roles they played in the past are no longer relevant or important. It’s only the now that matters. And while Golden Chickensss does end on a hopeful (read: musical) note, it’s that lesson that I’m going to keep with me. I laughed at the sex jokes and the cameos and all of the ridiculous humor, but it didn’t make me feel or think. And that’s fine; I don’t expect raunchy comedies to make me think. I watch them to be entertained.
But Golden Chickensss takes that a step further, being both entertaining and poignant. It’s an impressive feat, and one that makes the film well worth your time.
[Golden Chickensss will be playing at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center tonight, June 27th at 8:30 PM and Tuesday, July 1st at 4:00 PM. Golden Chicken will be playing tomorrow, June 28th at 12:30 PM. Tickets can be purchased at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s website.]