Sunday, March 04, 2007

Running on Karma: Grade B


Running on Karma (2003)

Andy Lau, Cecilia Cheung, Directors: Johnny To & Ka-Fai Wai

Chinese (Hong Kong), subtitled.

Lau is an ex Buddhist monk who specialized in martial arts and is now a Hulk-like body builder and stripper-exotic dancer. He is gifted, or cursed, with the ability to see people’s karma, a sort of clairvoyance in which he foresees a person’s fate and the karmic reason for it. He is busted for indecent exposure by policewoman Cheung but he ends up episodically helping her pursue bad guys, saving her from harm, and eventually a sort of relationship develops between them. At least she declares her love for him. It is not clear that he ever feels anything. The karmic clairvoyance story is interesting but soon becomes too muddled to make sense as a plot device. What’s left is the strength of the film, its sheer visual originality. Lau wears an enormous balloon of a muscle suit, clearly indicating a comic character. Yet he flips and turns his kung-fu moves as gracefully as a ballerina (on wires), can climb up the side of a building like a gecko, and leap through the air as if flying. It is CGI and video game syntax, yet “Biggie,” as he is known, is not a fantasy superhero. The movie keeps such a tone of realism that amazingly, we are seduced into a dreamlike world in which we can accept the reasonableness of his incredible actions. The movie creatively uses the visual medium in a completely original way, and that’s well worth seeing, even if narrative content is weak.

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