Gorgeous Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: April 11, 2023
Audio: Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (International Cut only)
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Run Time: 119:37 (Hong Kong Cut), 99:13 (International Cut)
Director: Vincent Kok Tak Chiu
Young and beautiful Bu (Shu Qi) finds a romantic message in a bottle near her family restaurant in Taiwan. On a whim, she flies to Hong Kong to meet her potential soul mate, who turns out to be Albert (Tony Leung), a gay beautician pining for his ex. Taking pity on the girl, he brings her to his workplace, where she falls for the wealthy and lonely C.N. Chan (Jackie Chan). But when Chan's lifelong enemy, Lo, discovers Chan has a new love, he decides to ruin their happiness. (From 88 Films’ official synopsis)
In February of 1996, a decade after his latest failed attempt at breaking into the American market with James Glickenhaus’ The Protector (1985, following Robert Clouse’s The Big Brawl [aka: Battle Creek Brawl] in 1980), Jackie Chan finally had a surprise stateside hit, when New Line Cinema released an edited and dubbed version of Stanley Tong’s Rumble in the Bronx. His would-be pop culture impact had been celebrated months earlier, in June of 1995, when he was presented a Lifetime Achievement award at the MTV Movie Awards. He accepted the award with a mix of gratitude and bemusement, noting that he was still “very young” and “still had a long way to go.”
Shortly after, the Weinsteins, via Dimension Films, released (annoyingly re-edited) versions of Chan’s biggest 1990s Hong Kong hits to considerable North American box office success, including Armour of God II: Operation Condor (1991, re-released as Operation Condor in 1997), Police Story 3: Supercop (1992, re-released as Supercop in 1996), Police Story 4: First Strike (1996, released as Jackie Chan’s First Strike in 1997), and Drunken Master II (1994, re-released as Legend of the Drunken Master in 2000). This led directly to Chan shooting his first entirely English scripted film, Sammo Hung’s Mr. Nice Guy (1997, released in the US in 1998), and finally scoring a Hollywood-branded hit with 1998’s Rush Hour, directed by Brett Ratner (though behind-the-scenes footage seems to indicate that Chan himself directed stunt/fight scenes).
Well into his second life as an international superstar and on the cusp of yet another breakout as a dependable Hollywood headliner (he made his second Hollywood hit, Tom Dey’s Shanghai Noon, one year later in 2000), Chan leveraged his success back home into Gorgeous (1999). Gorgeous was initially designed as a straight, action-free romantic dramedy with Chan as producer, not star, but he eventually slid into the lead role and the script was slowly modified to include the fisticuffs that worldwide audiences expected from him. Based upon the transitional quality of Chan’s career, critics and fans, as well as actor himself, have christened Gorgeous as a sort of anti-Rush Hour – the kind of film that Chan wanted to make at this point in his career (he was in his mid-40s) versus the kind of film that guaranteed him hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. This resulted in another monetary hit back in Hong Kong that was released straight-to-video in the US and a movie that generally satisfied everyone who understood what to expect from it. Ironically, the biggest criticisms tend to pertain to the fact that Gorgeous struggles as a romance, because producers decided that the same audiences that wouldn’t accept a Jackie Chan movie without fight scenes also wouldn’t accept seeing their hero kissing a girl, leading to a sweet, sometimes fairytale-like love story that is nonetheless oddly platonic (there is a kiss during the credit bloopers).
Director Vincent Kok (acknowledging that Chan himself was likely very hands-on as a producer) was (and is) best-known as a writer and performer who regularly collaborated with Stephen Chow – another Hong Kong megastar on the verge of international recognition at the turn of the millennium. You may recognize him as Chow’s rival in God of Cookery (1996) and or as the whining leader of Team Puma, who Chow’s team decimates on the road to the championship in Shaolin Soccer (2001 – there are a number of Shaolin Soccer cast members in supporting and cameo roles throughout this film, including Chow). Gorgeous was only his fourth movie as writer and director, following Only Fools Fall in Love (1995), Forbidden City Cop (co-directed with Chow, 1996), Cause We Are So Young (1997). As such, there’s a lot of Chow flavoring to the comedy and dialogue, minus the particularly frantic absurdity that makes his films so unique.
Kok does his best to make Gorgeous’ disparate parts gel, in part by shooting the smaller-scale character drama scenes like a John Woo movie, complete with a stream of gliding steadicams and aggressive blocking/angles. It sort of matches the energy as the action scenes, which match expectations for a late ‘90s Jackie Chan flick, but, even when it doesn’t, it still makes for an interesting visual dynamic. The production design is particularly meticulous in the way it matches costume colors (Chan wears head-to-toe white and all the baddies are don black suits) and the soft, cartoon-like pastel palette is, for lack of a better word, very pretty. Again, there’s a fairytale quality to both the visuals and the story structure, and this is the tone Kok sticks to most consistently. At times it feels a half-step away from a Disney spoof (think Kevin Lima’s Enchanted ) with Bu nearly fitting the naïve bumpkin princess mold (she even has a cute animal friend and might be capable of talking to sea life?), while Chan plays a modern kind of lonely prince, living in a sleek seaside mansion, instead of a castle.
Rumble in the USA: Jackie Chan in Translation by Mark Gallagher (pub. 2004)
As stated, Gorgeous was released basically straight-to-video in North America in 2000 on DVD and VHS tape. Blu-ray versions were released in Hong Kong, Japan, and Germany, but none were English-friendly, so fans had to wait quite awhile for 88 Films to issue this disc, which first debuted in the UK in March. 88 Films’ 2.40:1, 1080p transfer was created using a new 2K scan of “original film materials” (I suppose a mix of negative and print material?) and the company has included both the original Hong Kong release and the international version originally seen in 2000. Aside from some bleach white interior sequences, cinematographer Cheung Man-po’s photography is pretty delicate and the image quality here is appropriately plush and colorful. The neons and pastels are bouncy without appearing blazingly bright or oversaturated. Grain levels and textures are soft – as they should – which leads to some minor blocking noise along the most vibrant edges.
Gorgeous comes fitted with Cantonese (with some Mandarin and English) and English 5.1 audio options, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio, though if you want to watch the English dub, you’ll have to watch the shorter international cut. I don’t believe very many Hong Kong or Chinese mainland movies were mixing in digital 5.1 at the time, so it’s not surprising that this is a largely front channel affair, including nicely centered dialogue/incidental effects and a decent stereo spread of Wong Dang-yi’s score. The dialogue is all captured on-set, so there’s none of the ADR/dubbing issues you’d hear from earlier HK movies; however, the environmental effects work can sometimes drown out dialogue. I think this was just a matter of local production companies catching up. The English track is a little stronger in terms of effects work, the dub isn’t terrible, and the alternate score used during action scenes is a lot punchier. Too bad the international cut is 10 minutes shorter.
Commentary with Frank Djeng and FJ Desanto (Hong Kong cut) – The always enjoyable NY Asian Film Festival programmer and critic/producer are paired for what must be Djeng’s 400th commentary track this year. Subject matter once again includes the careers of the cast and crew, the film’s production and release, the geographical and political histories surrounding the era that the film was released, similarities to Stephen Chow movies, cameos, and differences between the HK and international cuts. Desanto also has a very sweet story about meeting Chan for the second time.
Commentary with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema (Hong Kong cut) – Another familiar duo of Asian action experts take a more personable and anecdotal approach to their track, as per usual, including some overlap with the Djeng & Desanto commentary, but also a wider discussion of life in Hong Kong and Taiwan, deeper looks into the work of certain actors, and further explanation of some of the cultural in-jokes.
Commentary with Jackie Chan (international cut) – This archival track is a bit awkward, because Chan doesn’t seem to be interested in discussing the film for an hour and a half (and is struggling a little bit with his English), but it still includes some good perspective and acts as a stand-in for a lengthy interview. His memories would’ve still been fresh at the time, as well, which might not be the case in 2023, following the making of several dozen other movies.
Shy Guy: Andy Cheng on Brad Allan (17:01, HD) – The stuntman, choreographer, and director recalls hiring the late Brad Allan (who passed away in 2021) to work with the official Jackie Chan Stunt Team, Allen’s incredible work ethic, his on-screen fights with Chan (with emphasis on Gorgeous), his English being an advantage on Hollywood sets, and working on Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Boxing Day: Vincent Kok Tak Chiu on Gorgeous (23:54, HD) – In this lengthy interview, the director/performer discusses his work and training in the Hong Kong film industry, first as screenwriter, then as director, working with Chan and Stephen Chow, Gorgeous’ development (which he wasn’t very involved with), prioritizing comedy and romance, being intimidated by directing post-Rush Hour Jackie Chan for only his fourth movie, casting, Chow’s cameo, and the ease of directing the action scenes with support of the Stunt Team.
Archival DVD extras:
The Making of Gorgeous (30:03, SD) – A Golden Harvest-branded EPK.
Cantonese and Mandarin title song music videos (4:07 each, SD) – I believe Shu Qi and Chan are singing on both language tracks, but I can’t verify it either way.
Hong Kong and English international trailers
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be seen by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.