Unpleasant and overacted.

The Chef, The Actor, The Scoundrel is set during WWII.  According to the film, the Japanese have deliberately unleashed a cholera epidemic on the Chinese people in Beijing.  While I don’t think this actually happened in real life, the Japanese did experiment with germ warfare during this time and did reportedly test these weapons on Chinese prisoners—so the idea behind the film is plausible.

When the film begins, two Japanese agents are traveling incognito through the streets of Beijing.  A bandit attacks them and soon their wagon is torn to pieces—and the trio end up in a bizarre brothel.  There, a group of greedy Chinese folks are concerned about what sort of treasure the two agents have brought with them in a canister.  However, they are horrified to see that it has something to do with the epidemic—though whether or not it’s the cholera or the cure is uncertain.

The Chef, The Actor, The Scoundrel
Directed by
Hu Guan
Ye Liu, Hanyu Zhang, Bo Huang
DVD Release Date
27 June 2014
Martin’s Grade: F

All this sounds very scary and serious, right?  Well, it’s not.  While the basic idea is interesting, the story is just dreadful.  Much of this is because it’s all played for laughs—with fart jokes, scatological humor and, worst of all, the most atrocious overacting I have ever seen.  Obviously the director had instructed them (particularly the woman) to make goofy faces and overact—and the effect is just awful.  To make it worse, the film is VERY talky and downright dull.  The film truly grated on my nerves and seeing goofy faces and googly-eyed expressions really wore thin—and I simply gave up on the movie after a while.  Finishing the film was a chore and by then I’d lost all interest.

My advice is to skip this one.  However, don’t assume that this movie is at all typical of Chinese films.  In fact, I have been really impressed by so many recent Chinese releases as they generally are very cinematic and professional and should be able to grab a significant chunk of the international box office.  But I also feel that when many people outside China see The Chef, The Actor, The Scoundrel they night falsely assume all Chinese films are awful.  This one is, clearly, but it’s the exception to the rule, believe me!  For a fun Chinese comedy, try Shaolin Soccer…it is terrific.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer

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