For her debut on the director chair, popular and beloved Hong Kong comedian actress Sandra Ng has found a cunning way to play around a classic Hong Kong comedy topic without alienating Mainland investors and unleashing the censors. Produced by her partner in life, Peter Chan (who seems to have a talent for promoting successful debuts), “Goldbuster” was released in China in December 2017, as a pre-festive treat.

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The film is set in a generic Chinese modern city, a glittering cluster of ultra-modern skyscrapers. Downtown though, dwarfed by the surroundings, a creepy and dilapidated apartment block – ludicrously called Prestige Garden – fights to withstand the greedy hands of property developers. A little group of tenants still lives there (without paying rent) as they have a variety of good personal reasons to stay; one widowed acupuncturist (Zhang Yi) and his little son are kept there by the painful memories of the late wife, a couple of disgraced inventors (Jiao Junyan and Pan Binlong) don’t want to dismantle their home-lab where they produce a suspicious white powder (it is meant to be washing powder!), an eccentric video-blogger (Papi) is orphaned and the flat is all she has left and a melancholic couple of ex Hong Kong gangsters is there in hiding (the very Hongkongers Francis Ng and Alex Fong in a parody of the stereotypical mobsters).

But when some eerie presences and spooky accidents keep occurring in the building, they believe the block is hunted and resort to hire cheap exorcist Ling (Sandra Ng). Despite looking more like a market seller than a professional ghost-buster, armed with common sense Ling smells a rat and discovers that something way more secular than a ghost is behind the disturbance that in the meantime is dangerously escalating into an apocalyptic zombie outbreak. They will have to put together a good plan and join forces to get out of trouble.

Sandra Ng has sensibly kept her directorial debut within the familiar ground of what she does best, a mix of classic slapstick and charming silliness. From the very beginning, the movie is a deluge of in-jokes, gags and physical jokes, some frankly better than others but the quantity of them makes sure you will inevitably laugh out loud at some point.

A very light-hearted social commentary is here more as a device, functional to the plot than a proper critique; like in many Chinese productions nowadays, even in “Goldbuster” the baddies are rapacious property developers, here embodied in Richie Xiu (Shen Teng) and his son, Xu Tianyu (Yue Yunpeng). Nothing truly original then, but at least here they are a very entertaining couple. Like them, almost all the rest of the actors are skilled Chinese comedians while the two Hong Kong veterans give the movie a nostalgic touch with their characters inspired by the great tradition of Hong Kong cinema. Alex Fong is great all around and Francis Ng is a touch too silly at the beginning, but he gets better later on when he turns into a likable “Infernal Affair” spoof.

Despite a certain lack of originality, “Ghostbuster” is a pleasant watch and certainly benefits from the big Mainland budget that allowed for the good cast and the impressive setting. Loughs are guaranteed in this fluffy and entertaining pastiche of comedy and horror and it looks like Sandra Ng had tons of fun making it.

 

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On paper I am an Italian living in London, in reality I was born and bread in a popcorn bucket. I've loved cinema since I was a little child and I’ve always had a passion and interest for Asian (especially Japanese) pop culture, food and traditions, but on the cinema side, my big, first love is Hong Kong Cinema. Then - by a sort of osmosis - I have expanded my love and appreciation to the cinematography of other Asian countries. I like action, heroic bloodshed, wu-xia, Shaw Bros (even if it’s not my specialty), Anime, and also more auteur-ish movies. Anything that is good, really, but I am allergic to rom-com (unless it’s a HK rom-com, possibly featuring Andy Lau in his 20s)"