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慾望之城 (2001)
City of Desire

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 12/06/2009
Summary: don't look back...

sandra (sandra ng) returns to macau, after having been in canada for the last twenty years. her father has a degenerative illness and the family business is being passed on to her; she's a little taken aback to discover that the family business is, in essence, prostitution. after initially interviewing a few of the girls who claim that this job is heaven - mainly for the money that they can make - a chance meeting with a childhood friend who has not has a good a life, pepper (josie ho), sandra soon starts moving towards the conclusion that conscience won't allow her to make her living running a business which exploits women...

this is quite an ambitious film, which tries it's hardest, but, ultimately, fails. as well as sandra's tale, there's a sub-plot with blacky ko and alice chan, as a police detective and a deaf & dumb massage girl. ko's detective takes pity on chan and takes her to live with him; probably my favourite element of the film. more of anthony wong's pastor, who spends a little too much time within members of his flock, would've been good, but instead he just becomes a manifestation of sandra's conscience. more of the back story showing josie ho and yo yo (miu fei-lam) would've been good too.

oh, and the performances of all those mentioned are strong; and, it should go without saying that i always like sandra ng in a dramatic role. well, in any role really... still, despite marko mak's slick editing, the inclusion of lots of grainy, documentary-esque footage, a high technical standard to the production, the strong cast and the ambition, the film does, unfortunately, just turn out to be a little bit melodramatic and weak by the time it hits its conclusion.

still, a reasonably good watch, despite of this.

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 08/15/2008

Due to City of Desire having a character played by Sandra Ng named "Sister Thirteen", it's been incorrectly regarded by some as being part of the Young and Dangerous series. Unlike the fairly fluffy popcorn look at young Triad life in Hong Kong that were the Y&D movies, this film is actually a pretty serious drama about the "leisure" (sex and gambling) industry in Macao and the people it affects.

The movie starts with Sister Thirteen (or simply Sandra as the subtitles sometimes call her) returning to Macao after living in Canada for ten years to take over her father's chain of hostess clubs. For those of you that don't know, hostess clubs are usually thinly-veiled brothels. The clubs are allowed to stay in business due to the co-operation of the police (led by Blacky Ko) who seem content to leave things be, as long as the club's girls have legal paperwork. Sandra doesn't feel right making a living exploiting women, and things become more complicated when she runs into a childhood friend named Pepper (Josie Ho), who has taken to prosititution in order to pay her gambling debts.

This plot could have been the basis for a really good socio-economic exploration of the seedier side of nightlife in Macao, and for a lot of its' running time, City of Desire does handle things well. The large cast, which also includes Alex Fong as Sandra's ex-boyfriend and Law Kar-Ying as a club manager, universally do a fine job. And with Marco Mak handling the editing and Lincoln Lo delivering the music, City of Desire looks and sounds great as well.

However, the film falls deep into a preachy tone at times... literally. Anthony Wong plays a priest who not-so-subtly is supposed to represent the conscience of the "real" Macao. When he tells Sandra the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, it's delivered with all the gentleness of a root canal. It's bad to use women for sex and gamble away all your money -- we get it. There's no reason to hammer the point of your film to the viewer like that. It just comes off as amateurish and a bit insulting.

When you combine that with a melodramatic ending that almost instills chuckles instead of the real emotions it should have, City of Desire ends up feeling like an exercise that had its' heart in the right place, but ultimately fails at its' task. It's certainly not a bad movie by any means, especially compared to some of Hong Kong's other output around this time -- it's just the fact that it felt like it could have been so much more that makes City of Desire a disappointment.

[review from]

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Rab99bit
Date: 05/19/2001
Summary: Movie of little desire

This movie also goes by the title "Kill Out Macao!" and after seeing it twice, I am still trying to find out who is killing and which part of Macao has been 'killed'. The cover of the VCD sold here in the Pearl bears a central image of Alex Fong but his role in the movie is rudimentary and his character, not developed to advantage. It could have been a better movie if they had concentrated on Alex Fong's and Ng Kwan Yue's roles but instead unrelated stories like the relationship between the deaf and dumb girl with the police officer (are they kidding??) and the close bonding between 2 girls in the flesh trade spoil the story line. The movie trys hard to portray the difficult circumstances of the "exploited" young girls in the flesh trade in Macau but fails miserably to win the audience's sympathy. The final scene of exploding fireworks was more like a celebration than the sad climax it was supposed to be.

Reviewed by: Paul Fox
Date: 05/15/2001
Summary: 'City' Leaves Much to be Desired!

Considering that Manfred Wong's Portland Street Blues was one of the better spin-offs from the popular Young and Dangerous series and considering that the writing and direction was done by the same team for City of Desire, one might expect to see a film of some continuity if not the some quality.  Unfortunately these expectations will not be met with City of Desire.

While the main character here is indeed called Sahp Saam Mui (Sister Thirteen) and is played by Sandra Ng, be assured that this film has next to nothing to do with the Y&D series.  Indeed it seems that this may have been merely a gimmick to attract more of an audience to the film.  What it does have is a series of stories which try and tie together using Macau's rather unseemly lifestyle as the backdrop, but none of them ever really come to any form of closure.

The film includes performances by Sandra Ng, Anthony Wong, and Kristy Yang, all of whom had notable characters in the Y&D series, but who have been reduced here to taking new and bland roles which have little to offer.  In an almost separate story, Alice Chan and Blacky Ko give above average performances in their roles as a deaf and mute club girl and the local cop who falls for her.  Cheung Tat-Ming also makes a cameo in this side story, but the material is just not enough to save the film.

The filmmakers give a notable attempt to work some documentary style footage into the picture.  This tries to present the real lifestyle of Macau's club girls.  Had they taken this premise further and left out the dull overshadowing story, this film might have had some value, but these scenes are too few and far between to keep the movie from sinking and it is enough to say that this film leaves much to be desired.

Overall review rating : 1.5

Review by Paul Fox

Location:   Fanling Town Center Cinema

Time: Wednesday 9 May   12:30pm