It's no secret that I have a soft spot for anthology films. Hong Kong isn't too keen on producing them though, so when I heard about Good Take! I was keen to find out how they fared. Luckily the result wasn't too shabby. Good Take! offers a nice mix of young talent and seasoned veterans eager to prove that Hong Kong cinema has more up its sleeve than a slew of genre films. As such, it's a great starter film for people not yet familiar with Hong Kong cinema.
I was pleased to learn the project was helmed by Eric Tsang, an omnipresent force in Hong Kong cinema and someone who isn't afraid to give young talent a chance. He may not be the best actor or best director of his generation, but it's impossible to overestimate his influence on the industry as a whole. Good Take! is a collection of shorts which all take place in and around Macau, apart from that there's not much of a common theme. Genre and styles differ greatly between the films, which means lots of variety but little coherence.
Kicking off the anthology is Kwok Cheung Tsang's Concrete. Kwok Cheung is in fact Eric Tsang's very own son, but his short provides ample proof that his presence is more than just a friendly pat in the back from dad. Concrete is a slick, tight and slightly macabre little horror short that packs quite a punch. The cinematography and use of color are outstanding, the acting is on point and even though it's not the most original horror story, the atmosphere is there and all combined it works wonders. A confirmation of all the good things Tsang showed in Lover's Discourse. 4.0*/5.0*
Second in line is Henri Wong's A Banquet. Wong is a seasonsed special effects guy, but surprisingly his short is the most modest of the bunch. It tells a pretty timid story about a father and son on their way to a party. While the presentation is nice enough, with a humorous videogame tie-in, the plot is a little meandering and the finale isn't as powerful as Wong would've hoped. It's not a bad short, but it is the least memorable of the bunch and the only one that felt a little pointless. 3.0*/5.0*
Dead center in the anthology is Chun Wong's Good Take, the darkest of the five. It's a short with two distinct sides to it, though still narratively connected. It's a strange setup as time is limited and each concept probably could've worked as a separate short, but Wong does find a way to connect both without losing too much momentum. On the one hand this is a tale about a man unable to let go of his deceased wife, on the other a story about a violent hold-up. It's well realized and it does hold a lot of promise, but ultimately it's not really clear why these two different ideas where stuffed into a single short. 3.5*/5.0*
Every anthology needs that one standout short, in Good Take!'s case that's Lung-Ching Yeung's The Solitudes. Yeung is a fresh talent with no traceable earlier work in the industry, but what he delivers with The Solitudes should be more than enough to launch his career. The film looks lush, with great color work, some snappy editing and a soundtrack tailored to the visuals. The story is pretty dark too, about the revenge of a nurse turned prostitute (Cherrie Ying) on the one seducing her to make the career switch (Sam Lee). The Solitudes is fact-paced, great-looking and has a superb ending, hopefully Yeung won't take long to start working on his first feature film. 4.5*/5.0*
The final short is directed by Ching-Po Wong (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai, Revenge: A Love Story), the most accomplished director of the bunch. We Are Ghosts starts off as a pretty basic, run of the mill horror romp, but turns into a fun little tongue in cheek comedy real fast. It's comedy aimed at genre fans, but with enough broader appeal as to not alienate the rest of the audience. With names like Stephen Fung and Charlene Choi, We Are Ghosts also has the biggest star power, but quality-wise it can't best Lung-Ching Yeung's film. Still, a fun and amusing closing act of this anthology. 4.0*/5.0*
Good Take! is a fine collections of shorts. Macau is a superb setting and each director manages to bring something unique to the table. Not all shorts are up to par, but there are no bad eggs and even the lesser short have something interesting to add. If you're not into anthologies and you prefer coherence, Good Take! probably isn't going to sway you, but if you want to explore Hong Kong's upcoming talent and you don't mind shifting gears from time to time, then this one comes well recommended. And for those who just can't get enough, there's also a second part aptly titled Good Take Too!