Wednesday, March 28, 2007

[HKIFF] Ebola Syndrome (Yi Bo La Beng Duk)

The Ebola Victim

Back in the early 90s, I recall widespread concern about incurable diseases such as the Ebola virus, and Hollywood taking the premise and churning out movies such as Outbreak and the such. In Hong Kong cinema, director Herman Yau cemented his cult status for films with excessive graphic depiction of sex and violence with this movie - Ebola Syndrome.

As compared to the other cult hit The Untold Story, you can spot various similarities in terms of presentation style, and certain plot elements and development. Again the lead role, Kai San, is played by Anthony Wong, this time with long frizzy hair, and begins the movie with both sex (with his boss' wife) and violence (yet another gruesome massacre played out in full on screen, coupled with sexual violence). Naturally he becomes a fugitive and escapes to outside Hong Kong - this time to South Africa, and becomes an employee at a local Chinese restaurant.

The similarities do not end there. You just cannot wait for the next dismemberment and the making of the new "char siew bao", now termed African Buns for local flavour. Expect more hard unflinching violence, and this time too with the camera unmoved from the decapitation of animals like chickens and frogs - heart still pumping, and the slicing out of innards, or the chopping off of legs. Sure puts you off your next bowl of frog leg porridge. And serving as another reminder, is not to offend your cook, as he has the power to include unwanted ingredients, including bodily fluids!

Rapid fire profane dialogue is a standard, and sometimes comical as the characters rattle off combinations of vulgarities with ease. But just in case you wonder if Ebola Syndrome is The Untold Story rehashed in a different setting, rest assure that only the good gory bits from Untold get squeezed into the first half of Ebola. Unfortunately the second half seemed to want to move away tangentially from its predecessor, and kept its focus on the contact with, and spreading of the disease.

Stemming from Kai San's inability to keep his pants on, he takes advantage of a comatose African tribe woman, who unknowing to him, is a victim of the Ebola virus. With an incredible stroke of luck, he survives the infection and becomes a virus carrier, spreading the disease in South Africa no thanks to his African Buns, and amongst prostitutes when he returns to Hong Kong. The rest of the movie becomes a comedy somewhat with the police attempts to contain the virus as well as to apprehend Kai San. Nothing too fancy in its second half treatment.

One more thing, look out carefully at the cameos and extras!
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