During the second Sino-Japanese War, China suffered from a cholera outbreak because the Japanese used it as a biological weapon. Four Chinese agents capture a Japanese scientist and his bodyguard and interrogate them by Chinese opera in order to get the vaccine formula.
WELLGO USA ENTERTAINMENT is a theatrical and home entertainment distribution company that specializes in bringing top content, including the best in Asian Cinema, to North America. Most of their Far Eastern movies are exceptionally well done but every now and again, a turkey slips through and sadly, that’s what “The Chef, The Actor and The Scoundrel” is. The movie begins and we are told that a cholera outbreak in Peking in 1942, killed many of the city’s inhabitants and that the remaining survivors were under a strict military curfew.
Two doctors are carrying the cure for the outbreak via stagecoach when the Scoundrel (Huang Bo) decides to rob them, unaware of the contents they are transporting. With the police in hot pursuit, all three end up in an empty restaurant where they are taken hostage by the Chef (Liu Ye) and his wife (Liang Jing). Oblivious to the cargo in the tube and thinking it is riches, all three try to figure out what they will do with their cut of the treasure until the Actor (Zhang Hanyu) intervenes and they realize exactly what they have in their possession.
The film starts off with a serious tone about disease and death but the entire movie is played solely for laughs. And very awkward and unfunny laughs at that. The characters all clown around, Benny Hill style, and can never take anything seriously. It’s hard to believe that these people become heroes and actually wind up saving their city from its deadly epidemic because there is so much absurdity and buffoonery on display, it’s actually a wonder that this film got made at all.
If the filmmakers had set out from the beginning and resolved to telling the story as a serious drama, that is something I would have genuinely wanted to see but as it stands right now, a movie that deals with one of the deadliest diseases mankind has ever known and treats it as laughable material, really has no right existing in the first place.
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