HOUSE OF WOLVES (2016) review

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Vincent Kok’s House of Wolves follows two scoundrels thriving in a small village: Charlie (Francis Ng) is a dognapper who pretends to be sclerotic in order to ingratiate himself to the ladies and avoid suspicion, and whose main ambition is to become a kept man, while Ping (Ronald Cheng) is an incredibly vain mama’s boy who’s also the village chief. They both find themselves vying for the attention of Chun (Jiang Shuying), a young writer who just arrived to the village. Now Chun is actually pregnant with a child whose father she’s running away from, and after inviting the two lovestruck rascals to her house and getting them drunk, she leads them to believe that one of them is the father of the child. Their rivalry as suitors becomes a rivalry as fathers, until they find out they’ve been tricked into surrogate fatherhood, and decide to go to the child’s real genitor.

A man is bitten in his crotch by a snake, and needs someone to suck out the venom. A woman is trapped in a capsizing portable toilet. Two men fart as they get in a certain yoga pose. A man takes the fish he intends to serve to his rival and rubs it under his armpit. This is a sample of the comedy to be found in House of Wolves. It is crass and derivative, but served with considerable gusto and paroxysmal mugging by Ronald Cheng and Francis Ng, the former firmly in his comfort zone, the latter not to be outdone in the least, and amusingly flashing a few choice impressions including Chow Yun Fat, Leon Lai and Jackie Chan. As befits a Lunar New Year comedy, the film is also peppered with cameos (Josie Ho, Chrissie Chau and a few others) and riddled with odd plot turns (a man wants to sell his baby to fertility research, another pimps out the dogs he’s supposed to look after) and non-sequitur scenes (Charlie performs a Taoist rite to exorcise a dog). It seems almost irrelevant to point out its narrative and artistic shortcomings; there’s an odd pleasure to be derived from such an unashamed approach to entertainment, especially if it features some unforced sweetness at its core: through all the pratfalls, this is still the story of two pigs who learn to care.

Long Story Short: Messy, crass and derivative, though oddly sweet at its core, House of Wolves is a showcase for Ronald Cheng and Francis Ng’s most unhinged comedic proclivities. **1/2

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