Gorgeous (1999)
Gorgeous (1999)

Genre: Romantic Comedy and Martial Arts Running Time: 1 hr. 39 min.

Release Date: February 6th, 1999 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Vincent Kok Actors: Jackie Chan, Shu Qi, Tony Leung, Emil Chau, Richie Ren, Ken Lo, Sung Young Chen, Elaine Jin, Bradley James Allan

 


 

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n Fortune Shell Island, a small but quaint fishing village in Taiwan, Bu (Shu Qi) dreams of true love. And thanks to her unassuming loveliness, she receives plenty of attention from men, leading to an unskillful marriage proposal from her friend Louie and, later, an offer from “Manhattan” Robert to show her around town. When she’s not fending off amorous advances, she innocently chats with Abu the dolphin, who swims up to the dock near her home. One evening, she spies a floating bottle with a note inside, claiming that Albert from Hong Kong is waiting for his lover. Smitten with the romantic notion, Bu flies to Hong Kong, hoping to find a veritable Prince Charming.

Once she arrives and locates the sender of the message, she’s disappointed to discover that, despite the fact that he’s handsome and has a nice apartment, Albert (Tony Leung) is also gay. To make it up to her, he takes her out on his boat, where he conducts a fashion shoot with a bevy of models. From a distance, she happens to see successful stock trader, entrepreneur, and playboy C.N. Chan (Jackie Chan) contending with a gang of goons. Longtime competitor and childhood rival Howie Lo is upset that Chan is visiting ex-girlfriend Carmen, resulting in an ultimatum: give a formal apology or be thrown into the ocean. Unfortunately for the hired thugs, Chan can’t be pushed around so easily.

It’s not long before Bu and C.N. are stranded on a tiny rock out in the middle of the water. Bu is so naive, childlike, and uncomplicated that in any other scenario – and in a different genre – her behavior would be a recipe for disaster. Instead, with its screenplay by Jackie Chan himself, “Gorgeous” is a pleasantly harmless bit of cinematic fluff (essentially, a life-action fairy tale). Curiously, it’s much less of his typical action-packed martial-arts extravaganza than it is a straight romantic comedy. When Bu concocts a harebrained scheme to pose as a Taiwanese mob boss’s girlfriend, hoping to make Chan jealous, the film really takes a turn for lighthearted, goofy romance. Naturally, it also takes C.N. quite a while to realize that Bu is a perfect match for him.

Although “Gorgeous” is Chan’s opportunity to try his hand at being a romantic leading man, he’s wise enough to include a sizable subplot involving diminutive boxer Alan (Bradley James Allan), which provides some spectacular one-on-one sparring sequences. Alan is a conspicuously short fighter, brought in from overseas by Lo, specifically to best Chan in a duel that should generate considerable humiliation. When Chan predictably loses the initial confrontation, he vows to train hard for the inevitable rematch, inspired and aided by Bu – and her playful immaturity and effervescent montages (gooily full of love songs).

Strangely, she harbors fantasy ideals about love, which aren’t immediately reciprocated by Chan; it feels a bit too much as if she’s an air-headed child and he’s just too nice to let her down abruptly. She’s head-over-heels immersed in a fairy tale; he’s merely enjoying the company of yet another woman in a long line of partners. In many ways, “Gorgeous” appears as if designed for preteens; even when the film is supposed to end with a mushy kiss, the stars resort instead to the awkward substitute of a mild hug (their noticeable, 22-year age gap could be part of the problem).

Fortunately, when the romantic comedy elements come across as trite or unconvincing (augmented by silly musical cues and uninspired flirtations), the attention to slapstick and creative skirmishes with imaginative props (here, clothing is utilized electrifyingly) brings the picture back to its senses. The final boxing showdown features some of the fanciest footwork of Chan’s career, while also boasting an uncommonly admirable note of good sportsmanship. Plus, there’s a clean-up-the-world message in the mix, though it feels forced, as if Chan wants to not only be a Don Juan, but also an environmentally conscience hero. Sadly, he’s far more entertaining as a martial artist than a Hollywood hunk.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10