No Guilty – Cultural Background Creates Interest

Country: Hong Kong
Genre: Action/ Martial Arts/ Bullet Ballet/ Exploitation
Director: Unknown
Year: 1992

Rating: ★★★☆☆

TRASH CINEMA RECOMMENDED MOVIE

A rapist/murderer is terrorizing Hong Kong. Chan Ga Ming (Siu Yuk-Lung), a hotshot fashion photographer, appears guilty, but isn’t the murderer. Nonetheless, Inspector Lee (Alexander Lo Rei) is determined to railroad Chan Ga Ming, even going so far as to ignore an exculpatory witness. Fortunately for Chan Ga Ming, his best friend is Jack (Lam Wai), a detective at the precinct.

This is pretty standard stuff, but no matter. Especially when it comes to genre films, it’s not so much what the movie is about as much as how well it’s executed that counts.

But let’s face it: No Guilty is a mess. As a police procedural, it’s worthless. The police don’t do any detecting. As a mystery, it’s risible for much the same reason. This is not a surprise as Hong Kong movies tend to be short on logic and long on spectacle. But there are more damaging flaws. The director stretches soft porn sequences to absurd lengths. Now, I’m all for gratuitous nudity, but in No Guilty, it gets pretty ridiculous. The music is all from library sources and doesn’t match the action. I spotted wholesale theft from the score of Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm. One of the heroes, who is the patsy for a major crime, is a complete and utter asshole, so I didn’t give a shit what happened to him.

So, the conventional satisfactions of genre film making are largely absent from No Guilty. And yet, No Guilty is kind of fun. How can that be?

Mostly, it’s because the script by Cheung San-Yee is rich in the dynamics of Hong Kong society, circa 1992. Even better, you get the sense that much of the sociological content wasn’t deliberately inserted but rather floated up out of Cheung San-Yee’s unconscious mind.

Let’s start with the relationship between childhood friends Chan Ga Ming and Jack. There’s a scene at a bar in which they flatter each other and make self-deprecating comments. Neither one of these guys is sincere in the slightest. It’s all bullshit, but it’s the sort of thing that’s common in Chinese society. It’s all about face. That’s interesting. I also find it interesting that Jack’s loyalty to Chan Ga Ming is far greater than it would ever be to a woman. No one in the film finds this the least bit odd.

The police routinely beat on suspects. There is some lip service about rights and due process, but no one gets punished for the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Kang Jr. (Chen Shan), the son of triad bigwig Kang Sr. (the great Ku Feng), is a complete monster. And yet, Kang Sr. constantly intervenes to save his son from the consequences of his own actions. Kang Jr. is completely infantile. Nobody, least of all the screenwriter, seems to make the connection between these two facts.

Fashion photographer Chan Ga Ming uses his fame to get his models to sleep with him, and then when he gets tired of them, he dumps them for the newest model. He’s a complete pig, and yet no one remarks on it. Even his best friend Jack doesn’t call him on it.

Personally, I find all of that very interesting. Mostly, that sort of sociological detail is what makes No Guilty worth watching. But there is more.

No Guilty is an opportunity to enjoy Lam Wai in a rare starring role. As usual, he’s excellent. Ku Feng is a blast as Kang Sr. Chen Shan is convincingly infantile and fey as the psychopathic Kang Jr.

The last thing that makes No Guilty entertaining is the fight choreography from Alexander Lo Rei, Jue Gwan-Yeung, and Wong Sai-Goon. It’s starts out pretty good and by the time the end fight rolls around, the choreography kicks ass.

With No Guilty, what you end up with up with is a movie that’s entertaining almost in spite of itself.

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