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Review: "The Chef, the Actor, the Scoundrel"

2013-04-15 09:59:11 Quarterly

The Chinese film "The Chef the Actor and the Scoundrel" sounds very much like the Anglo-French espionage film "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." But is that where the similarities end. Let's here from our movie reviewer Laiming to learn more.


"The Chef, the Actor, the Scoundrel" is the most ridiculous movie I've ever seen in a cinema. The last time I saw something of equal absurdity was 10 years ago when I rented a Hong Kong zombie movie made by an unknown director. Both of them rendered me speechless. I'm a little reluctant to go into the unpleasant details, but luckily, I can quote plenty of like-minded critics who share my opinion.

Let's begin with something nice. Director Guan Hu has commanded a powerful cast, including his wife, Liang Jing, and actors Huang Bo, Zhang Hanyu and Liu Ye. Huang Bo has recently become a very active figure in Chinese cinemas. In public opinion, he is the guarantee of a good movie. However, his presence fails to salvage the film, and his performance is overshadowed by that of Liu Ye and Liang Jing. Liu and Liang's roles are much more interesting, and both present their characters perfectly. By comparison, Zhang Hanyu obviously tries his best, but his lackluster performance can only be blamed on the storyline.

"The Chef the Actor the Scoundrel" is set amid the Second World War when a cholera epidemic is rampaging through the city of Beijing. Four Chinese intelligence officers learn about the arrival of a Japanese biochemist. They plan to intercept the expert and get a cure to stop the epidemic. They assume the biochemist will not give up the information easily, so they decide to break him down mentally. To do that, they smuggle their victim into a restaurant and stage a show of confusion.

Many parts of the story don't make sense. The biggest loophole is their show. The intelligence agents each pretend to be a chef, an actor or a scoundrel fighting among themselves for the cure and creating a mess in the restaurant. They never manage to confuse their subject, nor does the biochemist have the cure, so all the pretending is in vain. Judging from the title of the film, this show was supposed to be the highlight of the movie, but unfortunately, it is not a logically necessary part of the story. Similar things happen to a few minor characters as well, and their presence does not help advance the story. They are simply there to poke some fun at and extend the length of the movie.

In addition, many critics have complained about the use of flashbacks in the film. The story begins with all the characters in the restaurant, and the chef, the actor and the scoundrel trying every means to get the cure. Then a flashback explains to the audience what really happened and conveniently destroys the sense of confusion, which the director and actors had been trying very hard to create for the last 20 minutes. Meanwhile, such a revelation also undermines the actors' identities. From that point on, it is no longer a chef, an actor and a scoundrel; it is Agent A, Agent B and Agent C.
So to sum up, director Guan Hu has an interesting story and the best actors, but is not able to employ them to his advantage. On a scale from one to10, "The Chef, the Actor, the Scoundrel" gets a three.
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