Saturday, November 07, 2015

Ex Files 2: The Backup Strikes Back

Look at that title. It looks like the second in a long, long series of porno anthologies dedicated to a specific subject. Maybe even revenge porn. On the other hand, such a thing probably wouldn't be running at a mainstream theater.

Still, it was a weird experience, because while I was sort of expecting to be a bit lost at points because this was a sequel, but instead, the opposite happened - I found it really, really familiar. About five minutes after seeing a difficult star and an assistant commercial director with a difficult, credit-taking boss, I couldn't help but think that this was an awful lot like How to Use Guys with Secret Tips, a Korean romantic comedy with some fantasy elements I saw at Fantasia a couple years ago. And the more I saw, the more they seemed to match, right up until the end credits made the attribution.

So that means that both of the Chinese movies released in America over the past two weeks (The Witness and Ex Files 2) are both remakes of Korean films. On the one hand, I want to make a joke about whether Chinese movie buffs also complain about most people not wanting to read subtitles. On the other, I wonder if this is the only way for Korean producers to get a piece of the Chinese market at all. American studios have to hope for a shot at one spot in a limited number of slots that China allows for foreign films in multiplexes, and I wonder if their are tiers - do Hong Kong and Taiwan have to use the same pool? South Korea?

Whichever it is (and having seen many Indian remakes), it's time to retire the complaint that American audiences are uniquely incurious. Everybody, it seems, would rather watch movies in their native tongue, and it's probably the way that these things boomerang back to America in specialty theaters now that makes us aware of it.

Qian Ren 2 (Ex Files 2: The Backup Strikes Back)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 6 November 2015 in AMC Boston Common #19 (first-run, DCP)

As far as I can tell, the first "Qian Ren" ("Ex Files") didn't have any sort of official release in North America when it came out last year, but that probably doesn't much matter - though I would find this sequel familiar for other reasons, it appears to be a sequel in that it takes a supporting character from the first movie and drops him into a new situation and cast. It's a funny one, although I know for a fact that it could be funnier.

This time up, we follow Yi Ze (Amber Kuo Cai-jie), a longtime assistant director working for a company that makes television commercials, although seven years ago she was working as a production assistant on a singing competition who helped a goofy-looking contestant get his application in after the deadline when he showed her a little unexpected kindness. He won, and now, seven years later, after several hit albums and a transition to acting, Yu Fei (Ryan Zheng Kai) is starring in an ad for the company. He even remembers Yi Ze, pushing for her to have more authority during the shoot, to the point where she basically directs it herself, and they wind up spending the night together after. He's forgotten about her soon enough, though, and after she takes the fall for the necessity of reshoots, she meets up with "Master Tian" (Eric Wang Chuan-jun), who runs a noodle shop, tells fortunes, and gives her both a makeover and a playing-hard-to-get game plan to regain Yu Fei's interest.

Yu Fei is the character that carries over from the first, where I gather he was already some sort of celebrity, based upon the audience laughing at the geeky "seven-years-ago" version of the character (or maybe that's just a brief moment of Zheng playing well against type). Aside from him, most of this movie's screenplay comes from a Korean movie, How to Use Guys with Secret Tips, although writer/director Tian Yu-sheng has tossed out some of the funniest bits (the hilarious clips from the titular VHS tapes, the way its equivalent of Yu Fei blows way past envious to positively unhinged) and grafted on a subplot for the second half that highlights a weird sort of protagonist shift. It's not a bad screenplay, all told, but it makes the whole thing a more basic exercise in table-turning than something genuinely creative.

Full review on EFC.

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