Stars: Chapman To, Josie Ho, Candy Yuen, Yui Tatsumi, Aoi Tsukasa, Louis Koo, Nozomi Aso, Anri Okita, Maiko Yuki, Derek Tsang and Tyson Chak.
Writers: Chan Hing-ka, Ho Miu-ki and Chou Man-you.
Director: Lee Kung-lok.
There is certainly enough curvy, nubile flesh to have mainland Chinese censors reeling but in every other regard, director Lee Kung-lok’s enjoyably silly Naked Ambition offers only minor titillation. It’s strengths, however minor, are in maintaining a giddy comedic air despite a plot as flimsy as lingerie; any controversy conjured by the puritanical brigade should prove a storm in a D-cup.
A sequel-of-sorts to Dante Lam’s more seriously-minded 2003 hit, Lee’s high-energy romp is ostensibly a vehicle for ageless comic Chapman To, cutting a dashing figure as Wyman Chan, the Hong Kong everyman who inadvertently becomes an AV (adult video) superstar in the lucrative Japanese market.
Part of a friendship clique who bemoan the dwindling quality and profitability of DVD porn, the group head for Tokyo to hook-up with their adult industry connection, go-between Shidaiko Hatoyama (a foul-mouthed and funny Josie Ho, returning to the franchise in which she made her screen debut over a decade ago). Here, they set about making their own skinflick, only to offend the leading man with their demands on the first day of shooting and leaving the production with no good wood to film their opus.
Stepping up when no one else has the…well, you know, Chan allows his female lead (real-life AV goddess, Yui Tatsumi) to dominate – an unwillingness that pays off when Japanese women warm to his ‘shy guy’, submissive man persona and turn him into a top-selling AV industry superstar (after a very funny 'training' montage with Tako Kato, an AV legend with over 5000 credits). To's ‘reluctant Romeo’ archetype has always been popular with audiences – Australian readers will recall the bawdy Alvin Purple misadventures of the 70’s; British audiences had Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974) and its sequels.
Lee’s film settles into a series of set-ups capturing on-set wackiness and featuring topless girls giggling a lot and bouncing up and down on top of the increasingly smug and smarmy Chan (a persona that will be pleasingly familiar to longtime fans of To, who played a similar character most recently in Ho-cheung Pang’s Vulgaria). Fans of Eastern erotica will find an extra giggle or two in the soft-core depiction of cultural references such as the mega-monster genre, pink-haired Harajuku nymphettes and crowded train-carriage fantasy.
That is about it plotwise, until studly upstart Naoki Nagasaki (Louis Koo, another 2003 alumni) challenges him to a nationally broadcast ‘sex-athon’ to see who is indeed the AV alpha male. It is all preposterous, of course, as befits a film set in the ludicrous world of garish pop-porn, but it is played with a spritely energy by a cast that seems to be having a good time (in one scene, a stand-by woodsman accidentally ‘sprays’ To’s character, a splash to the temple for which the actor was clearly not prepared and which sends him out of frame, giggling).
If anything leaves a bad taste in the mouth, it might be the thinly veiled line in racial humour that creeps through the script by co-writers Chan Hing-ka, Ho Miu-ki and Chou Man-you. The Hong Kong ensemble utter several observations at the expense of their Japanese hosts, at one juncture ranting about their superiority over the local population. It reveals a mean-spirited streak that is out of place in such lightweight fare.
As expected, the third-dimension is predominantly used to assault the audience with close-ups of large breasts and provide extra-sensory immersion within the bedroom scenes. The Lumiere Brothers must be rolling in their graves, although Russ Meyer would love the new technology.