Thu, Jan 19, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Movie review: Hanky Panky

Our favorite dirty old man’s latest New Year comedy is an unspectacular but solid piece of entertainment for the holidays

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Blue Lan, left, and Chu Ko Liang play a father and son in Hanky Panky.

Photo courtesy of Hualien Media

If sappiness, melodramatics and exaggerated antics are staple features of Taiwanese commercial cinema, then 70-year-old Chu Ko Liang (豬哥亮) is its granddaddy. It seems just yesterday that Liang reemerged after keeping a low profile for more than a decade, but Hanky Panky (大釣哥) marks his sixth-straight Lunar New Year comedy — all massive box office successes. To be expected, the film is chock full of the aforementioned elements, and, of course, Liang’s trademark bathroom humor.

But the strange thing is that what would usually be cringe-worthy and outlandish makes total sense when Liang is in the mix. After all, he hails from a time where nonsensical comedies were still funny. All he has to do is be himself (or his usual stage persona) — the crass, inappropriate and over-the-top old man with the eternal bowl cut — and everything else seems to flow naturally. That said, Liang does rein in the weirdness for brief spurts and delivers a decent performance as a worried father whose son is about to be sentenced to death.

One might even complain that the film is tamer than expected, but Liang says he purposely created a more well-rounded character that is closer to his ideal of the “true Taiwanese man.” Liang says he has felt something missing in his previous films despite box office success, and decided to be more hands-on with Hanky Panky. Collaborating with former co-star Blue Lan (藍正龍), Liang reportedly spent three years coming up with the plot and setting before handing the reins to director Huang Chao-liang (黃朝亮), who directed Liang’s 2015 A Wonderful Wedding (大喜臨門).

The result is nothing spectacular, and you’ll probably forget this movie once it’s over. But it isn’t a bad film for what it is: another solid and entertaining Liang-style comedy with a decent storyline and a surprising amount of chuckles, which is exactly what people are looking for in a holiday blockbuster. There’s even a somewhat clever twist at the end. But if you don’t understand Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) or Mandarin, much of the humor will be lost in the subtitles. Even the Chinese film title is a pun, and god knows where they got “Hanky Panky” from.

Hanky Panky 大釣哥

Directed by: Huang Chao-liang (黃朝亮)

Starring: Chu Ko Liang (豬哥亮) as Dadiao, Blue Lan (藍正龍) as Hsiao-lUng, Aggie Hsieh (謝沛恩) as Hsin-yi

Language: Taiwanese and Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles

Running time: 110 MINUTES

Taiwan release: In theaters


There’s also a lot of pop culture-specific humor. For example, a scene where a female clerk at a sperm bank moves in slow motion will make no sense if you didn’t know that she is played by a guest actress whose claim to fame is imitating the DMV sloth clerk in Zootopia. What there isn’t in this movie, surprisingly, is swearing.

Liang plays Dadiao, a martial artist turned Chinese medicine practitioner who regularly commits petty theft with his son Hsiao-lung (Lan, also with a bowl cut). When Lan gets in trouble after borrowing money from his father’s enemy to send the love of his life (whom he just met) to law school, Liang must find a way to save him.

Of course, the self-deprecating dirty old man gets no love in the film, and the romance falls to Hsiao-lung and Hsin-yi (Aggie Hsieh, 謝沛恩), who hold their own but lack Liang’s power of making the absurd seem normal. As a result, their scenes are mostly awkward and tacky.

Don’t dismiss Liang as a fool just because of his bumbling on-screen persona. There’s a reason he’s been able to stay relevant despite pulling the same old tricks decade after a decade. He knows how to tell a story, and most importantly, he knows how to make fun of himself — which is where most other Taiwanese screwball comedies fall short.

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