Rating: 2.5 out of 5
With the Chinese Valentine’s Day coming around soon – chap gor may, as some call it here – this star-studded rom-com sparks comparisons with Love Actually and the recent Valentine’s Day.
Hot Summer Days, an apt film considering the heat that’s been assaulting Singaporeans throughout the month of February, tracks the relationships of various couples in Hong Kong, Zhejiang, Shenzhen and Beijing.
The romantic plots include: a driver played by Jacky Cheung begins an SMS romance with failed-pianist-turned-masseuse played by Rene Liu. A writer (Vivian Hsu) tries to win back a stern-faced sushi chef (Daniel Wu). An air-con repairman (Nicholas Tse), estranged from his dad (Gordon Liu), woos a hot biker chick (Barbie Hsu).
Meanwhile, a factory worker (angelababy) is pursued by a boy-next-door (Fu Xinbo). Finally, a proud photographer (Duan Yihong) tries to find a model whom he believes has cursed him with blindness.
Besides the already substantial cast, there are also cameos from various celebrities, including Charlene Choi (the non-scandal-tainted half of Twins), film director Fruit Chan, Calvin Choy of legendary Hong Kong band Grasshopper and Shawn Yue as a tattooist.
The biggest cameo of all, however, is Maggie Cheung, who plays a heartbroken customer at Wu’s sushi shop.
Here’s the problem: her performance is the lone authentic part in the whole movie, and Cheung—lest you forget—still has a superstar presence. One is surprised why Wu doesn’t just run off with Cheung rather than settle for the lifeless Vivian Hsu.
Performance-wise, the standout is Rene Liu as the frustrated pianist who has to turn to foot reflexology (the way Fann Wong has to in the local movie Happy Go Lucky) to make a living. She never becomes desperate, and plays the role with just the right touch of sweetness and resignation.
Jacky Cheung, who gets to speak in his native Cantonese, also does a fair job as a single dad. The rest of the cast are merely passable, and some, like Wu, have very little to do.
Even for the movie’s brisk 95-minute running time, the stories contained lack depth and are mostly flat in tone. Melodramatic and sentimental overtones run through almost all of them, resulting in fairly predictable fare.
Furthermore, the film is too overcrowded with distractions, such as weak CGI and animation bits that clamour for attention with the five subplots.
The film has a jerky flow, and weak continuity. For example, there’s a scene with a blackout, but besides presenting an opportunity for the director to show lights flickering out of cities, there’s not much real impact and the electricity is back in the next scene.
A car crash is also inconsequential, though perhaps one should be thankful it was not milked for more melodramatic effect.
A bothersome aesthetic point is how there appears to be an oily coat covering many of the actors in the movie (I know, I know, the movie takes place during hot summer days). It makes one want to rush out, grab a hose, and spray all of them down.
Overall, Hot Summer Days is yet another forgettable ensemble piece that could have spent more time refining the script. For a movie about romance, this film simply lacks passion and is just hard to warm up to.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
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