Turn Left Turn Right
Director: Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai
Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Gigi Leung, Edmund Chen, Terri Kuan
Adapted from Taiwanese artist Jimmy Liao's comic, Turn Left Turn Right is a Hong Kong movie set in Taipei. While critics in Hong Kong found that this movie is not faithful to the original and the reviews are generally negative, the responses from Western audience, or those who have not read Jimmy Liao's comic beforehand (including myself), are nevertheless quite positive.
The premise of the story is quite simple. John Liu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Eve Choi (Gigi Leung) fall in love at first sight, but fate always keeps them apart. They live in the same city, the same street and even the same building, but they never really get to know each other properly because one always walks to the left, and another to the right... Perhaps Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai found this story outline a little dry, and that the hermit-like characters might scare the audience away (These two are really living in the cave, they don't even have a cellphone!), or perhaps they had a much heavier burden this time (as Warner Brothers is one of the major investors of this movie), they really couldn't do it a a stylistic way like PTU, the movie is rather turned into a mainstream comedy with considerable amount of no brainer humors, two side characters are added to the story with the major purpose to play jokes. Therefore, the mood of the movie is very inconsistent. On the one hand, you have Kaneshiro and Leung engaging in serious romance, and on the other hand, the two goons played by Edmund Chen and Terri Kuan just seem to come from another world doing all kind of crazy things.
One major defect of this plot is the overdose of conincidence. The entire movie is built up from bits and bits of conincidences. Although fortuity is a major component for the constitution of good drama, overdose is proved to be a bad idea, especially if the timing of the event is too perfect. The problem of this movie is that the coincidences are too frequent that they greatly weaken the personality of the characters. It is the characters that are driven (dragged) by the incidents instead of them making the decisions and initating the plot. The result is that the characters become extremely vague, as they don't really have the motives to work things out. They lack the charm and quality for the audience to love or commiserate with them.
Despite the flaws of the plot, there are actually some good things that are worth to mention. For instance, the cinematography is well done. Taipei has been transformed into a perfect location for romance to happen under the camera of To and Wai. No matter the streets or the park, everything looks exquisite and elegant. The performance of the cast is also qualified. Takeshi Kaneshiro remains as a gentleman as usual, while Gigi Leung is also persuasive as a interpreter, despite some overacting here and there. As for the supporting actors, I am not sure if it was demanded by the director or not, Edmund Chen and Terri Kuan just look so pretentious all the time. However, it doesn't mean that they are bad, it is just that their style doesn't seem to fit in this movie.
If Jimmy Liao means nothing to you, then you probably wouldn't be disappointed, as Turn Left Turn Right is just another typical yet professionally made effort from the usual team of Milky Way. Otherwise, keep in mind that it is not an exact adaptation, only the theme but not the entire story is retained, then you'd probably feel better watching the movie.
P.S. The names of the two protagonists are never really mentioned in the movie. The ones used above is found in the synopsis on the cover of the VCD/DVD.
Reviewed by: Kantorates