Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Supercapitalist: Playing Liars’ Poker in Hong Kong
a financial Luke Skywalker, Connor Lee is about to assume his destiny as the
son of a legendary trader. He will find
it in Hong Kong. His Chinese is limited,
but he speaks money. That will be all he
needs in Simon Yin’s $upercapitalist (trailer here), the centerpiece
selection of this year’s Asian American International Film Festival, which
opens this Friday in New York.
regularly predicts the unthinkable, yet is never able to adequately capitalize
on his foresight. That may soon
change. He has caught the eye of hedge
fund master of the universe Mark Patterson, who dispatches him to Hong
Kong. His assignment is to mount a
takeover of Fei & Chang, a hidebound family run conglomerate in which they
already own a minority stake. This does
not sit well with the ruling Chang family, especially the heir apparent son,
Richard, who is spearheading a top secret project afoot to radically
re-engineer the company’s ailing import-export division.
Lee facilitate the revitalization or the liquidation of the company? This depends on who gets the final word: the
devil or the angel sitting on his shoulders.
The devil is Quentin Wong, Lee’s colleague and mentor in the HK fast
life. The angel is Natalie Wang, a
corporate publicist working with Richard Chang and his IT guru.
again, $upercapitalist portrays an
American hotshot who must go abroad to get a lesson in business ethics. At least it is HK rather than the CP
dominated Mainland doing the teaching this time around. However, the supposed killer app for employee
motivation Richard Chang’s team is developing sounds highly dubious. Essentially, their plan to increase
productivity involves an intra-company facebook, in which workers try to amass
attaboys from their peers. I think I’d
rather start the day with a dozen lashings.
as a star vehicle for himself, screenwriter Derek Ting has a few nice moments in
$upercapitalist as Lee. Mostly though, his character follows the old
school Tom Cruise template of a humbled young Maverick finding redemption
through the help of a more emotionally mature love interest. Kathy Uyen holds up her end well enough as
the virtuous publicist, but it is not a particularly well fleshed out role.
as Wong, Darren E. Scott clearly enjoys playing the villain, bringing a nice
infusion of energy to his scenes. Still,
for those who follow Asian cinema, the real highlight of $upercapitalist is seeing veteran HK actors Richard Ng (a Jackie
Chan alumnus also seen in Detective Dee)
and Kenneth Tsang (recently in Starry Starry Night, as well as John Woo classics like Once a Thief) do their thing as Chairman Donald Chang and his board
member brother Victor, respectively.
$upercapitalist is not a bad boardroom soap opera, but it falls
in too easily with the lazy Bain Capital attacks currently circulating in the
media. Frankly, if Fei & Chang’s
import/export division is dragging down the entire company, they have a responsibility
to all their employees to fix the problem.
Of course, why worry about the complexity of reality in a film when
simplistic stereotypes are so much safer?
A decent showcase for some fine supporting work, the flawed but still
quite watchable $upercapitalist opens
this Friday (8/10) in New York at the Village East.
Labels: Business in film