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Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The Current Cinema - The Mermaid - Stephen Chow's 3D blockbuster viewed by Barrie Pattison

China’s first three billion yen movie,  the current Stephen Chow The Mermaid has had a soft launch here - a single late session a day in venues has now given way to four runs in 3D.

Chow is the great survivor from the peak of Hong Kong film making in the seventies, having notched up the great Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.

They kick off with a fashionable ecology actuality montage before we get into the
wannabe droll scenes of the grotesque mermaid museum, with the comic in a bikini and stick-on tail abused by the kid customers.

Plot proper follows where Business Czar Chao Deng pushes through a billion (HK) dollar deal reclaiming island channel land. Other magnates are scornful until they find he’s driven the protected dolphins away with sonar buoys. His peer group includes fellow survivor film maker Tsui Hark, impossibly glamorous Yuqi Zhang and the millionaire with the jet pack that mal-functions after the champagne cork hits it’s start button.

Scenes follow with the sea creature community sliding about the ramps and nets of their coast wreck hideaway and dominated by the plastic wrinkled woman elder with the glass tail. These must have consumed a large slice of the budget. Turns out that Jelly Lin, the badly presented young woman, who comes on for our millionaire hero, is actually a mermaid (tail split and shoved into yellow shoes) sent by squid man Show Luo to off him. She's equipped with black sea urchin missiles, poisonous weeds and a bone knife, the penalty for disrupting their habitat  - comic misadventures follow.

When the pair become involved Show Luo shows up masquerading as a sushi chef and has his tentacles grilled and mashed into fish paste, while they are still attached to him before vomiting ink over the restaurant diners, pretty much setting the tone.

Yuqi Zhang figures it out and with a remarkably destructive European marine biologist leads a flotilla of armed small ships to take down the mermaid community using automatic weapons, bombs and harpoons - disturbing shots of open wounds and killing which are compared with dolphin harvest actuality.

Our now reformed hero realizes the emptiness of wealth when caught in a traffic jam he can’t buy his way out off or even trade his Lamborghini for a Pizza bike - OK scene.

Mermaid is certainly memorable. If only for it’s disturbing footage of blood letting and slaughter integrated into a rom com. This one must get some kind of award for weird. It’s surprising that such a graphic entertainment has been so well received, with Chow’s demonstrated understanding of his public not what we would expect. Chow’s fans, among which I’ve always counted myself, movie completists and the curious should regard the film as essential. What they will make of it is anyone's guess.

Jelly looks like she could head up a classy rom com cycle. The effects work is constantly grabbing. 3D doesn’t make all that much difference.
Directed by Stephen Chow, Produced by Stephen Chow and others, Script by Stephen Chow, Kelvin Lee, Ho Miu-kei, Lu Zhengyu Fung Chuh-chiang, Ivy Kong, Chan Hing-ka, Tsang Kan-cheung, Starring Deng Chao, Show Luo,Zhang yuqi, Lin Yun, Music by Raymond Wong, China, 2016, 94 minutes


Editor's note. The Mermaid opened simultaneously in Australia and China. In Australia it is screening at 19 Hoyts Cinemas around the country. In Sydney it is screening at Burwood, Hurstville andBroadway as well as at the George St Event Cinemas where it has more daily sessions. It has grossed just under a million dollars after ten days in release.




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