Chinese Box

Director: Wayne Wang
Year Released: 1997
Rating: 2.5

British writer Jeremy Irons - in Hong Kong just before the Chinese takeover - tries to win back the affections of Gong Li and get to the heart of the 'real' Hong Kong through street hustler Maggie Cheung all the while battling his own mortality - for those that need it all spelled out for them, Irons = England, Gong Li = Hong Kong and Li's rich boyfriend = China. Structural obviousness aside, I found the combination of Irons' very credible performance with the atmosphere of Hong Kong itself to be a potent mix - plus, Ruben Blades is interesting in a small role as a photographer who also functions as much-needed comic relief. Aside from Smoke, Wang's films don't always have the strongest scripts - the Maggie Cheung side-plot, for example, is underdeveloped - but he makes up for it with mood and intimacy.