Director: Stephen Chow
Cast: Deng Chao, Lin Yun, Show Luo, Zhang Yuqi, Kris Wu, Lu Zhengyu, Fan Shuzhen, Li Shangzheng, Bo Xiaolong, Pierre Bourdaud, Ivan Kotik, Kong Lianshun, Bai Ke, Chiu Chi Ling, Tin Kai-man, Tsui Hark, Wen Zhang, Yang Neng
Running Time: 94 min.
Liu Xuan is a rags-to-riches Tony Stark-type flirt who has everything he could ever need, with the exception of a conscience. After pulling his latest land-grab, he teams up with fellow rich asshole Ruolan to murder the local sea life with sonar. The purpose? Artificially boost the economic value of the area to potentially make it ripe for tourist and housing deals. But unbeknownst to him, he’s also contributed to the massacre of a school of mermaids who plot to retaliate by killing him. The method? Catfish (Sorry, couldn’t resist) him with a female mermaid by the name of Shan, who poses as a human to get close to him.
As with Journey to the West, Stephen Chow once again chooses to be behind the camera for this picture. Though unlike Journey to the West, the production values are a lot higher and the story-line’s a little more focused and relatable. So I should appreciate it more, right? Well, the answer is yes and no.
The Mermaid’s definitely a message movie that goes down a lot less annoyingly than, say, Avatar. But at the same time, it’s a lot more gruesome than the typical Stephen Chow movie. So, if you’re expecting it to contain his trademark slapstick humour with a little bit of over-the-top violence thrown in, then you might be disappointed. Chow does not hold back in his depiction of the fishes being slaughtered, and the film rightfully earns its R rating because of that. The comedy’s also more satiric in tone, with Liu Xuan’s skirt-chasing antics being scrutinized in particular.
Personally, I don’t totally care for the lead character, even when he does change his colors a bit. He’s more akin to the wheeler-and-dealer you’d see in a Hollywood movie which places heavy emphasis on accounting, dropping stock, and trading and selling shares. I mean, he’s a little more noble than the soulless hunters with harpoons who work with him. But he still tries to resolve his problems with money in some form or another, and it makes The Mermaid come off more corporate than intended.
But as usual for a Stephen Chow movie, the female characters are played by attractive, but assertive, actresses who steal the show from the male lead. In some ways, they’re the main reason to see the film, because the male performers are sidelined into roles with a caricatured bent. You almost wish they were given longer scenes with Li Xuan to expand his one-note persona.
So, overall, The Mermaid is great, if you’re looking for the Chinese answer to a Hayao Miyazaki movie. But if you really just want a fun Stephen Chow movie, it might better to wait until he stars in one again.
Ningen’s Rating: 7/10