Andy Lau is Sun, a reporter who has let his relentless pursuit of the story blind him to the humanity that the news is built on. When he is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, he decides that the best course of action is not treatment, but getting one last, glory-making story. Enter Gump Chung-Shun (Kenny Bee), a money man in Singapore who was just caught stealing from his clients, sending negative ripples across the Asian economy. Sun goes to find Chung-Shun, and ends up becoming his hostage. Out in the wilderness, the bad guy teaches the wannabe good guy about the dangers of living life with regret, and once they are home, Sun completes his lesson by taking care of Chung-Shun's prostitute girlfriend, Chu (Theresa Lee). He learns to appreciate What a Wonderful World it all is.
Leung Chun Chiu's 1996 film begins with the most typical cold-hearted journalist plot imaginable, and then somehow manages to make it infinitely ridiculous. The problem is one of tone. The first half of the movie is like a homoerotic Asian version of Romancing the Stone, reporter and criminal running through the wilderness and engaging in high-comedy hijinx--including falling down a waterfall. It's not mud, sure, but it could be. Of course, the men who once hated each other are now friends, and this corporate thief isn't such a terrible dude after all. It's not very funny, and it's strangely scatological. I actually enjoy toilet humor, but Chung-Shun having to go to the bathroom every five minutes was just tiresome. The two actually meet in a stall, and at one point, Chung-Shun even urinates on Sun.
The second half is a little better, as things get more serious. Lau is a likable actor, and he seems to honestly try to bring Sun's inner struggle to the surface. Lee's hooker with a heart of a gold, however, is pretty obnoxious. There is also another overbearing reporter who wants all the good dirt on Chung-Shun and the still lingering cops who have been transplanted from a more standard Hong Kong police drama. At one point, one of them does a flip and slide over his car hood...just to give Sun and Chu a ride.
Lau's character may learn his lesson in the end, but it's an obvious one, and his final gesture to Chu just earns a mild shrug. The end isn't as offensive to one's tastes as the beginning, but it's too little too late.
What a Wonderful World is low-grade import, likely transferred off an old laser disc or master. Simultaneous Chinese and English subtitles are imbedded in the picture, and they are very poorly handled. Besides bad grammar, the sentences are quite often too long to fit on the screen. The picture is letterboxed, but it hasn't been cleaned up at all. The colors are faded and there is a lot of dirt on the negative.
There is both a Cantonese and Mandarin audio track. I watched the original Cantonese, and it's a pretty poor sound transfer. The audio is muted and tinny.
None whatsoever. At least as far as I could find. The menu was cranky and hard to navigate. A couple of times, my DVD player shut down rather than struggle to figure out what I wanted from it.
Despite some decent acting from Andy Lau, What a Wonderful World is a storytelling mess. Given that the DVD is of equally poor production quality, Skip It.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the superhero series It Girl and the Atomics and the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.