Enter the Phoenix
Director: Stephen Fung
Cast: Eason Chan, Daniel Wu, Karen Mok, Stephen Fung, Chapman To
Enter the Phoenix is the first feature film with Stephen Fung taking the role of director. Early in 2001, he had already made his directing debut with Heroes in Love, in which he and Nicholas Tse had directed part of the movie. Last year in 2003, he also produced a video about magic performance. But it was not until now that he finally directed his first feature film.
The story, conceived by Stephen Fung himself, is a typical gangster comedy that is no stranger to fans of HK movies. Apart from the idea of a homosexual gangster, which is played by Daniel Wu, there really isn't any surprise. Fortunately, as an actor-based comedy, the performance of the cast turns out to be quite satisfactory. The main cast, including Eason Chan, Karen Mok, Stephen Fung, Chapman To and Law Ka-ying, did not actually try to bring in any new stuff but merely gave out their veteran performances. On the one hand, you could say that the director is smart at utilizing the best of his men, but on the other hand, it could also be viewed as a pragmatic strategy, as it saves the time for the fledgling director to guide and teach the actors and hence lowers the difficulty of actor direction.
Although the story offers nothing new to the genre, Fung's directing approach is still worth to mention. As a first time effort, it is apparent that Fung has spent a lot of time to think of innovative ideas to impress the audience as well as his boss. The action choreography is splendid for a comedy, and the gags are well calculated and succeed in generating laughters at the right moments. One of the most remarkable achievements of the new director is his depiction of the homosexual gang boss Daniel Wu. Different from the usual cliched and bombastic portrayal of such characters in many other HK movies, Fung tries his best to minimize the stereotypes and instead rely on daily life behaviors or minor events to slowly build up the character. Perhaps his treatment would lower the comedy effect of the character, but contrary speaking, it does make the character appear more believable, and it also shows Fung's respect to the gay community.
In addition to the gay theme, father and son relationship is another theme of the movie, and it is demonstrated by the fragmented yet passionate depiction of Daniel Wu and his father, who is played by Yuen Biao. Although there are not too many scenes showing their intimate connections, the audience could still feel their bond through little pieces of evidence here and there. Comparatively speaking, romance seems to play a minor part in the movie. It is so obvious that the only love sub-plot, provided by Karen Mok and Eason Chan, just doesn't interest the director.
In conclusion, Stephen Fung's feature film directing debut Enter the Phoenix is a qualified effort. Although it lacks surprise, it does perfectly demonstrate Fung's ability as well as his confidence as a director. It seems that Fung definitely didn't make the wrong choice for jumping into the directing stream.
Reviewed by: Kantorates