Magazine article Screen International

'Mermaid': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Mermaid': Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Stephen Chow Sing-chi, 2016, China, 93 mins

Stephen Chow Sing-chi infuses his latest romantic comedy with a powerful ecological message, as a beautiful young mermaid is tasked with seducing the rich tycoon who is destroying her ocean home. Mermaid also proves a strong vehicle for Chow's latest ingenue, Jelly Lin, as well as gifting robust roles to Deng Chao and Taiwanese pop star Show Lo. Opening in Hong Kong and China on 8 February - the first day of the Lunar New Year - Mermaid set a new single-day record for a local film at the mainland box office, taking RMB281 million ($42.7 million), and that success looks set to continue in Asian markets thanks to Chow's enduring popularity there.

Playboy businessman Lu Xuan (Deng Chao, American Dreams In China) drops large sonar devices into the ocean along a strip of newly acquired coastline, known as the Green Gulf. He plans to clear the marine life and begin reclamation work on the area for a new luxury resort. But his actions endanger a community of mermaids who also live in Green Gulf. Shan (Jelly Lin), a young mermaid familiar with the human world, is sent by Octopus (Show Lo) to lure Lu Xuan back to their lair, where they intend to kill him.

Lu Xuan is perpetually surrounded by beauties only interested in his wealth - not least potential business partner Yue Nan (Zhang Yu Qi). So when he meets the eccentric Shan, her odd behaviour and total disinterest in his money intrigues him. Needless to say, Shan's deception backfires when she too develops feelings for Lu Xuan, putting her loyalties to the test, while also presenting problems of inter-species relations, what with her being half-fish.

Set on the mainland and filmed in Mandarin as (opposed to the writer-director's native Cantonese), Mermaid finds plenty of opportunity to imbue proceedings with Chow's trademark brand of absurdist humour, quite a local specialty. The film opens with an amusing vignette set at a dilapidated museum featuring fake dinosaur relics and its very own "mermaid". Another standout sequence has Shan and Lu Xuan perform a spirited rendition of the theme song from The Legend of the Condor Heroes while on their first date. Occasionally the humour strays into more unsettling territory, however, such as when Octopus, posing as a sushi chef, is forced to dice and grill his own tentacles to avoid detection. …

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