"X-Roads" is a misguided and poorly made update of the 1930s Shanghai classic "Crossroads," with Chinese actors speaking bad English and a former American sitcom star.
By MICHAEL BERRY
With a joint international production team, a multinational cast led by Taiwanese box-office star Rene Liu, and a classic from the golden age of Shanghai moviemaking as inspiration, everything seemed to be in place to make "X-Roads" (Xin shizi jietou) a success. The film is a light-hearted update of the classic 1937 leftist film "Crossroads" (Shizi jietou), which starred Zhao Dan and Bai Yang and portrayed the trials and tribulations of four young people in the hostile urban jungle of Shanghai.
In "X-Roads" the sudden death of Yang Shao's (Rene Liu) mother brings her from New York to Shanghai for her mother's funeral and to realize the unrequited love of a past generation. The belated love affair between Shao and urban slickster Zhao Ming (played by the charismatic Zhao Jin), slowly unfolds amid the ghostly images of their parents' onscreen romance.
|Original title: Xin Shizi Jietou.|
Written and directed by: Xiaozhen Jiang.
Cast: Rene Liu, Jin Zhao, Feihong Yu, Alan Thicke, Matt Trusch, Kandy Cox, Yi Huang, Qi Feng, Danjun Li.
In Chinese and English with English subtitles.
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The romance, however, does not go off without a hitch. Zhao Ming initial advances are only part of a larger scam to convince Shao to allow him to turn her mother's house into a nightclub and both have significant others. As in the original, there is a predictable happy ending where romance between Shao and Ming is finally realized, despite all the odds against them.
But just because all ends well on screen, that isn't necessarily the case in the theater. "X-Roads" seems to want to work as a contemporary romantic comedy, but fails in both departments. As a romance, the story is unmoving and the awkward dialogue scenes between Shao and Ming (both played by native Chinese speakers) carried out in clumsy pidgin English are so contrived that they are more likely to bring laughter rather than tears. The seeming lack of emotion over the death of Shao's mother which nobody seems to care about once the funeral is over (they only worry about her will and her house), not only does a disservice to the film, but to the memory of Bai Yang, who passed away in 1996.
Even the sole recognizable American performer, sitcom star Alan Thicke, delivers an embarrassing performance as the stereotypically selfish and sex-crazed American love interest of Shao. Without question, Thicke's lines like, "C'mon, a little quickie? Get me while I'm hot! Ten minutes, we could do it twice!" and "I've got a queen size bed here with your name on it!" are indeed comic but for all the wrong reasons.|
One of the few redeeming qualities of the film is the juxtaposition of vintage footage from the 1937 film with the current cinematic revision, (which not only features Zhao Dan's son as the lead actor, but Bai Yang's daughter in the role of screenwriter). Most viewers will however gain more pleasure in tracking down the original "Crossroads," rather than getting stuck on the tracks of this flawed update.
|JULY 19, 2001|
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