Also with: Cindy Lai, Vivian Lam, Raymond Lui, Rain Lau, Ho-ho Yuen, Joe Junior, Tse Fun-yung, Spencer Chan, Jacob C.L. Cheung, Simon Lo, Lee Wing-man, Tsui Kwok-keung, Wong Ho-sze.
TV newscasters should be tied down and forced to watch “Always on My Mind,” a scabrous black comedy about spin-doctoring on the airwaves that takes a lunatic premise and squeezes it till the juice runs out. Film’s plethora of Hong Kong in-jokes and manic humor is likely to limit its play with Western auds, but Sinophiles will relish its sharp scripting and fine lead playing by two of the territory’s most accomplished thesps.
Well-known actor/director Michael Hui toplines as a middle-aged editor at fictional web CCN who loses his job and finds he has cancer of the intestine on the same day. His wife (Josephine Siao Fong-fong) and three kids are so self-absorbed that they hardly notice he has only three months to live.
When Hui accidentally gets an inside scoop on a police coverup, the CCN execs come up with a ratings-boosting wheeze — rehire Hui, go public on his terminal disease and win the public over with “honest” reporting (on the basis that Hui must be telling the truth as he has nothing to lose). Hui and Siao become instant celebs, but problems start when Hui starts going too far in the honesty stakes on air.
Potentially bad-taste idea, which plays like a comic version of “Network” with a dash of “Broadcast News,” comes off thanks to Hui’s own buoyant performance and his wonderful double-teaming with Siao, whose quietly crazed perf is a minor gem. Hui’s final on-air speech, which draws on the comic’s standup skills, manages to be both funny and moving.
Script is thick with local refs and in-jokes that don’t travel, but the overall good-natured tone is clear enough.
Direction by Jacob Cheung (“Cageman”), who also cameos as a film director, is well paced. Version shown at the Berlin fest was Cheung’s preferred “international” one, with an open ending as to whether Hui survives. Hong Kong version, which bowed last December to OK business, had Hui surviving his op. Pic’s Chinese title means “The Money-Grabbing Couple.”