Monday, November 2, 2009

Herman Yau's Walk In (1997)

Wai (Chien-lien Wu) is atop a large building and poised to jump. Police officer, Tommy (Chi Wah Wong) and his colleague and fiance, Laura (Li Yu) arrive to talk her down; yet Wai is adamant, because she has a plan: after her death, another spirit will "walk in" to her body, and Wai is very cool with that idea. Wai takes the plunge and smacks the concrete. To everyone's surprise, she eventually stands right back up. Meanwhile, Lo Bill (Yeung Ming Wan) and his cronies are waiting for Chicken (Danny Lee), who's going to be the wheelman for their next robbery. Chicken is an excellent driver but a stuttering buffoon with whom Lo Bill and his stooges are reluctantly working. The next morning, Lo Bill and his buttheads raid a crime syndicate's office and nab the loot. A bloody shootout ensues during the course of the robbery, and outside, officer Tommy is ticketing cowering Chicken. Lo Bill blasts a few cops on the way out of the crime scene and jumps in the getaway car. He pumps some bullets in Chicken's chest, since, hey you're kind of worthless, anyway, and violently hits Tommy with his car as he speeds off. Chicken and Tommy survive: Chicken's in a coma and a vegetative state, while Tommy's now a paraplegic. Perhaps another "walk-in" is in order?
Despite the seriousness of tone and bloody violence of the initial exposition of Herman Yau's Walk In (1997), this film is very much a comedy. Since Walk In is also helmed by Herman Yau, it is also irreverent, unique, and a little dark. Pretty jumper Wai, possessed by her new "walk in" spirit, is now a local self-help guru. Her advice is often obvious and direct, such as "you're fat, eat less." Laura comes to Wai to help Tommy, who feels life is not worth living anymore since he's lost the use of his body below the waist. Wai tells him to accept the situation and move on but perhaps feeling a kinship because of the rooftop incident, she tells Tommy about how to "walk in" to another body. Tommy approaches comatose Chicken and promises for use of his body, he will avenge Chicken against the people who harmed him. Tommy also promises not to touch any of Chicken's women, and if he does, he hopes to prematurely ejaculate at the first naughty thought. Chicken agrees, and Tommy with help from Laura, drives a car off of a cliff and dies. Let the shenanigans ensue.
Immediately, at Tommy's funeral and in his new body, Tommy wants to have sex with Laura. In the most romantic place, the bathroom at the mortuary, Laura cannot get into the mood: Chicken's face is a little much for Laura, and she needs some time to get used to it. Tommy is also learning that Chicken was pretty low for a human being: he's racked up debts all over his small village outside Hong Kong and has two mistresses, one pregnant. In addition, Chicken has treated his very plain-looking wife poorly, both financially and emotionally, and has an estranged relationship with his very beautiful sister, May (Ada Choi). The new Chicken is now forthright and righteous: he lines up everyone and starts paying his debts off; Chicken gathers his mother, his wife, two mistresses, and May for many a sit-down to adequately sort out their relationships; and virtually starting from scratch, he begins to gather clues about Chicken's attacker. However, Tommy's relationship with Laura is seriously suffering.
Some best scenes in Walk In involve Lee's Chicken and Choi's May. Of the six women who occupy both Tommy's and Chicken's "dual" life, May is the most enamored with the hybrid man. She learns of Tommy's body/soul switching with Chicken and becomes quite attracted to the new man. It doesn't help that May is also affectionate: more than once, she hops on to Chicken for a tight hug or a cat-like brushing up against his body. Danny Lee's character gives a ridiculously orgasmic face only to have to take a quick trip to the bathroom to clean up. "May, we can't have an affair," says Chicken/Tommy. "That's all right," says May. "Although it's my brother's body, I'm in love with the man inside." Despite his oath of premature ejaculation to Chicken, Tommy puts his foot in his mouth later when he promises to Chicken to be more diligent in his pursuit of his attacker: Tommy promises that if Laura touches him, he will prematurely ejaculate, as well. Soon after that promise, Laura warms up to Tommy's new body to Tommy's discontent. The low-brow sexual humor and the usually taboo theme of incest is creatively rendered, due in part to the performances by all of the participants and a well-timed and unique script. I love how Yau and company emphasize seemingly the most unsettling themes of the story by injecting them with the most ridiculous humor.
Tommy does find out the identity of Chicken's assailant, and Yau bookends Walk In with two fantastic action sequences. Herman Yau must have been born with low-budget exploitation in his DNA, because he executes it very well. The shootout at the beginning and the confrontation at the end is rendered with a lot more detail and nuance than expected. The editing is tight; the camerawork is tops; and the on-screen action is amazingly exciting. The final confrontation also involves a very dangerous-looking chase: two double-decker buses through the streets, colliding at times and going against traffic. The stunts are expertly executed, and I wouldn't be surprised if any of the stunt people injured themselves more than once. Often a ninety-minute or so low-budget exploitation movie offers little, yet Yau often offers packed ones. Rarely conservative, Yau goes where his contemporaries do not, and quite often, I'm the one who is rewarded. With Walk In, Yau impresses me again.

1 comment:

Mr.LargePackage said...

Excellent review, Hans. A witch tried to possess me once. What she didn't know, and what nobody told her, is that to be me, you have to be large and in charge. She was neither.