Ransom Express (2000)

In the summer of 2000, producer/screenwriter Tony Leung Hung-Wah was on a big roll. He decided to gather up his crew from Guilty or Not [2000] and take them on a working holiday to Kuala Lumpur. Nice work, if you can get it. Leung borrows freely from the international art house sensation, Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run. He cast Alice Chan Wai as the running girl on a mission to rescue her boyfriend. Leung sprinkles in some decidedly Hong Kong flavor and director Francis Nam Chi-Wai comes up with a pretty good 79 minute adventure movie.

If this sounds interesting to you, I should probably suggest that you have some appreciation of the work of Eric Wan Tin-Chiu. He's the male lead in this opus. Wan was on the verge of a big movie career but he over-exposed himself appearing in a number of lesser genre films. In Ransom Express, cinematographer Yip Wai-Ying gives Wan the star treatment in his many close-ups, which are filled with his constant wide-eyed mugging. The producers had enough money in the budget to get Anthony Wong Chau-Sang to work for, maybe, half a day. He plays Chan's ex-boyfriend who picks his feet in public and displays an ambiguous sexuality.

Young, aspiring filmmakers should take notice of this film. It is a visual textbook on how to make a film on location with a shoestring budget. Guerilla shooting techniques are on full display such as hand-held set-ups, getting local residents to appear on camera, and [what looks like] shooting without permits on the city streets and highways.

Copyright © 2007 John Crawford. All rights reserved.