The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful : ‘NYAFF’ Review
The upside of The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful is its feminized central core. While most Asian crime films revolve around gang-wars and interpersonal politics, Yang Ya-che’s newest film revolves around the family matriarch Madame Tang and her involvement with the ones in power. The downside of the film is pretty much everything else. While Kara Wai who plays Madame Tang and Ke-Xi Wu and Vicky Chen who play her polar opposite daughters are at the top of their game, the film relies too heavily on shock value and a terribly contrived cat-and-mouse game that gets more and more melodramatic with every passing second, making that whole thing a chore and not a fascination.
We open with an astonishingly well-shot stimulated sex-scene of a woman involved in a threesome while a young teenager watches her from the outcast. We later get to know that the two of them are sisters and Madame Tang wishes them all to be dressed in a similar attire to please a high-end artist. We eventually get to know Madame Tang and her sly, cunning ways to connive the powerful onto her side. Her elder daughter, however, has gone too far off into the realms of chaos that it’s hard to bring her back. The teenage daughter is an innocent child who agrees and does anything that has been told to her. She is particularly fond of Madame Tang whose manipulative ways has cast her away from pretty much everyone – involving her elder sister.
Madame Tang’s elder daughter Ning (Ke-Xi Wu) has also developed her own conniving ways to get things done. She succumbs to seduction and betrayal to have things go her way. The young Chen (Vicky Chen) on the other hand is constantly at arm’s length from Ning, who, at this point in her life has lost complete physical and mental rigidness. Her immoral behavior makes Chen vouch for her mother more than her. While Madame Tang wishes to keep the family intact, her eye for a better life for the family makes her take bold moves that seem to round-off around a murder case that involves all the high-end people including the Tang family itself.
The rest of the film is a heap of family melodrama, police-procedural, a murder mystery, a hereditary induced dysfunctionality and even a politically relevant satire. In trying to stylize his visuals director Yang Ya favors colors to showcase his broad, occasionally obnoxious character turns. He uses a scattershot screenplay to forcefully confuse the audience into following a cat-and-mouse game, that otherwise would have ended up being derogatory and bland. While it still manages to be both of them, the feminist core keeps it intact from completely falling apart.
The instances where the film seems to completely lose itself into its own weary web is where the screenplay starts going into Pepperment-Candy-Esque mode. While the acting is all fine across the board, the characters that seem unpredictable and dark end up being constantly mocked by their own very nature. Which washes away any kind of catharsis or redemption whatsoever. While the film keeps it’s dumb title to be absolutely true through and through, it does very little in the place of providing something darkly delicious or ever remotely fascinating. Which is disheartening seeing how hard each person on the screen is trying to make this work.