For his second film just behind the cameras, Hong Kong funnyman Stephen Chow brings us a tale of a mermaid and an unscrupulous businessman who find love in the most dire of situations for the former.
Liu Xuan is a businessman who has only one love: money. When he buys the property for a reclamation of the sea, he is met with support from his uncle Yeh and an old flame, businesswoman Li Ruolan. At a party to celebrate his latest acquisition, he meets a young crazy woman named Shan. Shan insists that Xuan meet with her to discuss business. Xuan avoids Shan for quite some time. However, when he finally does call her, little does he know that she is actually a mermaid hired by the other mermaids and the second in command Octopus to kill Xuan so they can save their land.
Despite Xuan’s unscrupulous efforts to get rid of Shan, he soon finds himself drawn towards her. An impromptu dinner at Shan’s job at an amusement park reveals Xuan to tell Shan things not everyone knew about him. Shan and Xuan soon begin to fall in love and Xuan begins to have a change of heart about the reclamation project. When he learns Shan’s secret, at first he is in shock. However, he can’t help but have his feelings for Shan overcome his love of money. However, his newfound love for Shan faces a serious and potentially deadly threat.
If there is one thing about Stephen Chow, he can tell a heck of a story. What he proves with his 2013 film Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons and now this film, he doesn’t need to be in front of the cameras. Here, we have a Stephen Chow movie without Stephen Chow. The film may have a bit of a resemblance to others like Splash and others, but loaded with Chow’s brand of humor.
Deng Chao is pretty the film’s acting Stephen Chow in his portrayal of businessman Liu Xuan. Judging from his introduction alone, you know that Deng could actually be a worthy successor to the “mo lie tau” genre after appearing in action films such as The Four series and Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. It is as if the spirit of Chow is invoked in Deng as he plays Liu as someone who just doesn’t give a care about anything but making money. Even when he meets our titular character, he still is with hesitation to change until a good portion of the film, where despite his shock towards his new lady love, displayed in a hilarious scene where he is trying to talk to two police officers about the secret, he finds himself truly in love with something, or rather someone that is not about money.
Newcomer Jelly Lin does quite well as the very troubled and concerned Shan. Her mission is simple: seduce and kill Xuan. However, like Xuan, Shan can’t do what she feels is necessary out of love. Despite some numerous and hilarious failed attempts, she is cute enough to help drive the film. Pop singer and actor Show Lo perhaps gets some of the film’s biggest laughs here as the half-human Octopus. Like Shan, his attempts to get Xuan leads to some very hilarious failures that only someone like Stephen Chow could deliver. As for Kitty Zhang, the one time “new Stephen’s girl” from CJ7 and Jump, soothes seduction and evil in her role of Li Ruolan, who ultimately is the film’s main antagonist as her love for money overcomes all. There are some delightful cameos by Chow’s boys Lam Tze-Chung and Tin Kai-Man, but the film truly belongs to Deng Chao and Jelly Lin, with a major dash of Show Lo.
The Mermaid is definitely a funny Stephen Chow film, even without the funnyman in front of the cameras. While many still await the day for him to return in front of the screens, they can enjoy this fun film that invokes the spirit of “mo lei tau”. As an added bonus, the film’s central theme music is inspired from the kung fu classic Fist of Fury.
WFG RATING: A-
A Star Overseas Ltd. production. Director: Stephen Chow. Producer: Stephen Chow. Writers: Stephen Chow, Kelvin Lee, Ho Miu-Kei, Lu Zheng-Yu, Andrew Fung, Ivy Kong, Chan Hing-Kar, and Tsang Kan-Cheung. Cinematography: Choi Sung-Fai. Editing: Cheung Ka-Fai.
Cast: Deng Chao, Jelly Lin, Show Lo, Kitty Zhang, Tsui Hark, Ivan Kotik, Pierre Boudard, Tin Kai-Man.