It’s Chinese New Year, and that means one thing.
Well, it means a lot of things, but one of those things is Chinese New Year movies. 12 Golden Ducks is the fourth movie in the Golden Chicken franchise.
Which is not a restaurant.
Last year’s Golden Chickensss was also a new year movie, and it was my favorite of the bunch. I liked it so much that it was one of my top five movies of 2014.
That movie, as well as 12 Golden Ducks, was directed by Matt Chow. He co-directed this year’s Triumph in the Skies, a film I called Failure in the Cinema. I’m more than willing to lay that off on his co-director, because 12 Golden Ducks, like its predecessor, is a really, really good movie. It’s not just a good Chinese New Year movie, though it is that.
It’s a really good movie any time of the year.
Sandra Ng plays Future Cheung, a gigolo.
Yes, Sandra plays a man.
It’s a little hard to get used to at first, but she does such a good job with it that I started to see her character instead of her. She deserves a lot of credit for going through this kind of makeup, because that takes a lot more patience than I could ever have.
Like the previous movies, Sandra’s character is a sex worker facing a challenge, and she must find a way to rise to the occasion. In this movie, that’s just one of the challenges.
Future’s not alone in this endeavor; his colleagues are an interesting bunch played by Philip Keung, Babyjohn Choi, Wilfred Lau and Lo Hoi Pang, who continues his nearly unbroken streak of appearing in every single Hong Kong movie made.
Ivana Wong and Wyman Wong (no relation) play a Thai couple whose restaurant is a front for a duck shop. I wasn’t really fond of the Thai impressions they were doing, but they weren’t as bad as some other things I’ve seen in local movies.
These tenacious professionals face adversity with courage, wit, and ingenuity. Along the way we get to see a lot of different stories and a huge variety of local stars. Pakho Chau and Michelle Wai appear in the beginning of the film. Fiona Sit’s cameo makes a nod to the city’s current political climate. Simon Yam’s cameo answers the question “how ugly can one man’s outfits be?”
A flashback featuring Nicolas Tse foreshadows the end of the film and also recalls the original Golden Chicken from 2002. Speaking of the original, Eason Chan returns for another cameo, split into two parts, both of which are hilarious. Isabella Leung returns to the big screen with a small role. Unlike me, she’s aging really, really well. So is Chrissie Chau, who plays the headmistress of a school 90% of men and 10% of women wish they had attended. Anthony Wong plays another headmaster who probably would be just as popular, but for different reasons.
I was really happy to see Carmen Lee back on the big screen again in a very funny scene with Louis Koo. It was also nice to see him getting to play an informal, funny character. I can’t explain it well, but when you see it you’ll know what I mean.
Carmen Lee actually used to exercise at the same gym I go to. The first time I saw her, I asked if she was Carmen Lee, and she asked me why I knew who she was. Understandably, she was more than a little nervous.
The end of the movie features a cameo by Lu Han, who is apparently a member of some Korean boy band.
Or girl band.
The thing that makes 12 Golden Ducks so special is the same thing that made the Golden Chicken movies special. They somehow capture a very distinctive sense of the local. It’s almost a kind of nostalgia, but it’s more than that. These movies are almost like love letters to the city.
It also helps that 12 Golden Ducks is so well-written, acted, and directed. It’s a lot of fun to watch, and it still ends up affecting you more than it objectively should.
It’s easily my favorite Chinese New Year movie of 2015.