And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...
Protégé de la Rose Noire
Partie Une
by: Wes

TEEN TITANS... go? o_OChinatown. Dirty, crowded, full of noisy chatter in a language I don't understand for the life of me -- but a veritable gold mine for someone who thirsts for random wackiness in his cinematic acquisitions. And what's more random and wacky than some dude dressed up as Robin alongside three costumed women who are clearly not Batman? For only $5, there was no way I was leaving that shop without Protégé de la Rose Noire in my possession. The DVD even came with refrigerator magnets.

Before we get to the review of this utterly insane flick, however, a bit of background information is, well, not really necessary, but I guess it's nice to have. First, apparently this film is the latest in a long line of movies loosely based on The Black Rose, a Cantonese heroine who made her debut way back in the 60s. (For interested parties, The Illuminated Lantern has all you'd ever want to know about the character's history, along with brief synopses of each of the Black Rose films. Good stuff.)

The Black Rose finds new life in the 21st century, then, via the star power of Twins, a Cantonese pop group that's only been around since 2001. Now, I've never heard any of their music, but having seen several of their movies I've developed a sort of soft spot for these two. It's not because their movies are good, mind you; I just think they're cute. Which isn't really saying much, seeing as how it was someone else who pointed out to me -- after I argued that Charlene Choi was the cuter of the two female leads in one movie and Gillian Chung was the cuter of the two leads in another -- that these were the same women from other films that I own. As a result, I often simply assume that any film I come across in Chinatown with two fresh-faced young girls on the cover stars the Twins, and, as terrible as it sounds, you wouldn't believe how often I'm right. Or maybe you would, given the girls' extensive filmographies. Are there no other female twentysomethings in HK's film industry? But I digress.

"But I don't think I'm qualified.""You think you're a pile of shit?"

Protégé begins with Gillian (Gillian, appropriately) begging her Psychology professor to allow her to continue her studies even though she's aced all of the courses the school has to offer. To fully understand the progression of this scene, however, you have to understand how HK comedies -- and HK films in general -- work. Despite often having intriguing premises, for some inexplicable reason HK filmmakers seem to only be able to produce about 30-40 minutes of worthwhile footage in any given movie. What takes up the remainder of the runtime, you ask? Random, pointless "comedic" banter that's always fucking stupid, sometimes amusing, but rarely has any bearing on the rest of the film. So while Gillian and the professor go back and forth and there's a humorous exchange involving her drawing of the animal she believes best represents her (a snail; see above), all you really need to get out of this scene is that 1.) Gill is supposed to be fairly intelligent and 2.) she'll beat the ever holy fuck out of you if you say her full name, which is what eventually happens to the professor when she punches she shit out of him, trashes his office, and hurls him across the room into his bookcase.

"I miss home.""I'm an alien and I got the superpower."

Charlene (Charlene, natch), on the other hand, is an alien. From another planet. And she's got the superpower (!!!), which basically consists of her making funny chanting noises and jumping around as if enacting some obscure Buddhist ritual to cleanse the surrounding area of evil spirits and hopping vampires. What she doesn't have, however, is a bun in the oven, which is something of a problem considering that she's been living in a shelter for single mothers for the past month. Charlene argues that she's a single mom on her home planet, but that's not enough to keep the shelter's director from kicking her out on the street -- superpower and all.

Thus far, then, we've met a psychotic psychology student who'll brutalize you for saying her full name and an alien with the superpower. If that sounds insane, consider that a.) those random and wacky traits will actually be important later in the movie and b.) we haven't even scratched the surface of Protégé's lunacy. STAY TUNED.

BONUS HAIKU!!!

So after a typical HK pointless bullshit scene involving Gill and Charlene trying to rent the same apartment from an intractable Korean slumlord (it's obvious that this is supposed to be funny, but I guess I don't get the joke), the girls befriend each other and happen upon a posted advertisement for a beautiful and smart apprentice. Of course, they both want the job, and their newfound friendship quickly turns to rivalry as the ad flies away and they both race to get it. Moments later, after Charlene is forced to navigate a dog shit minefield (which is oddly reminiscent of the way NYC looked when I bought this DVD), each of the girls is in possession of one half of the flyer. How hilarious! So they bicker for a bit -- arguing about who's prettier and smarter and saying things that, according to the subtitles, make no sense whatsoever -- before hailing a cab and riding to the job site together.

"You two are from the same gang and committed a crime last night.""Call me! Remember!"

And lo, that taxi is driven by none other than Jim Lo (Ekin Cheng), the future wearer of the Robin costume and the primary motivation for this review! But the girls are still pissed and aren't speaking to each other, so like an annoying bartender who won't fucking let you down your ninth shot of scotch in peace without asking what's wrong, Jim breaks out his amateur psychology skills and tries to get to the root of their problem. In addition to setting up the central conflict of the film with a mention of the LavenCamp criminal group, this results in more comedic HK bullshit, with Jim saying a lot of stupid things -- it seems like every HK comedy I've seen lately has to include an "oh ho ho, you must be lesbian" line -- and getting his ass kicked by both girls as a result. And at one point (and here's where the subtle differences between Asian and Western comedy become apparent), Gillian smacks him so hard that his head collides with and cracks the windshield glass.

Let's take a moment to discuss this development. Granted, we've all seen slapstick of this variety before with the Three Stooges and the like, and Macaulay Culkin injured those crooks pretty badly in Home Alone, and sketch comedy shows often feature skits involving some pretty brutal stuff, but I think this is the first time I've seen anything depicting a character attacking the driver of the vehicle being the punchline of the joke. I mean, we've seen comedies where a character will do something to distract the driver and the driver will swerve while everyone in the car screams and makes funny faces, that being the intended humorous part. And it teaches a lesson: While this may have resulted in something funny to you, it was a dangerous and unfunny situation to the characters onscreen -- so don't hit the wheelman, kids! Yet here there are no repercussions. Jim doesn't lose control of the vehicle even for an instant. There's nothing so funny as that here. No, despite the potential for death and other disastrous consequences, the humor of the situation is really supposed be found in the fact that she hit him so hard as to damage his vehicle. This isn't funny, folks. It's dangerous and appalling. I'm disgusted.

And then, to make matters worse, when they finally arrive at the mansion, the girls don't have enough money to pay the fare -- let alone for the broken window! Still, nice guy that he is, Jim not only lets them off the hook, but gives them his card so they can use him for future rides! And how do they repay him? After beating him up and cracking his windshield, they crack jokes about his name, calling him "J. Lo" in an apparent reference to the taco-licious Miz Lopez. Moreover, Charlene's superpower kicks in, and as Jim leaves she envisions him sporting a broken, bleeding nose -- and though this could be understood as a metaphorical depiction of the figurative and literal thrashing he has already suffered at the hands of the Twins, in reality it is a premonition of the future.

Looks like someone said the secret word!"He said he'll send Batman and Spiderman to save us."

The girls get theirs, though, because once inside the creepy Gothic mansion the house tries to kill them as nooses descend from the ceiling and slip around their necks! After a moment of hanging, however, the girls discover that the nooses are part of a strange seesaw contraption that allows one of them to stand on the ground while the other is hoisted higher into the air -- and in this manner, they take turns catching their breath until finally giving up and resigning themselves to death. But just as they say their final goodbyes and make preparations to meet "in the Heaven," they fall to the ground and are greeted by Morticia Addams the Black Rose (Teresa Mo), who tells them that, because of their courage and loyalty even while hanging from their necks, they are both qualified to become her assistants. She then straps the screaming girls into that indoor rollercoaster from the "Beetlejuice" cartoon intro, whereby they briefly learn about Rose's history before being dumped into a dusty dungeon. And if this is how she treats her wards, I'm never going to her house for tea.

By the way, are you catching the subtle "qualification" theme we've got going on here? First, Gillian was qualified to receive her PhD or whatever in Psychology but didn't believe she was, whereas Charlene, because of her single mother status on whatever planet she's from, believed she was qualified to stay in the shelter but was kicked out because of her lack of proof. Later, the girls bickered about which of them was more qualified for the position as Rose's assistant -- and now we find that they're both qualified! Later on, they'll sing a song about it.

So after Charlene's alien superpower fails to open the gate and telephone call to the police results in the captive girls being teased by the police, the girls call on Jim for help. Personally, if I were Jim and they had done to me what they did to him, I'd tell them to rot "in the Hell" -- cuteness be damned! But Jim's a nice guy, so following a mildly amusing but wholly pointless scene during which, in the process of taking a pregnant woman to the hospital, he picks up a bleeding little boy, an injured motorcyclist, and two rival gang members bleeding from a knife fight along the way, he finally arrives at Rose's mansion and gets seriously hurt trying to find a way in.

"This is called... toe massage weight loss.""I succeeded in digging underground road to save you."

Meanwhile, the girls find that they could actually get to like being Rose's apprentices. Granted, they're still not sure exactly what that entails, but they know that it comes with free room and board, access to Rose's extensive wardrobe, and playful bathing sessions with slight lesbian overtones -- so naturally, it's at that moment that Jim bursts through the floor after spending the entire night digging a tunnel underneath the mansion to rescue them. And of course, since he's technically barged in on two naked women, the girls repay his heroic and exhaustive efforts by beating the living shit out of him, calling him a peeping Tom, and attempting to drown him in the tub.

And once more we must digress to consider the so-called "humor" of these proceedings. Yes, we're all familiar with this kind of humor. Male characters who find themselves in the women's bathroom frequently find themselves on the receiving ends of vicious beatings, and how many times have we seen Jack Tripper end up in hot water for chancing upon Chrissy in the shower and other such accidents? The differences here, however, are that I.) Jack's female roommates never attempted to murder him and II.) Jack never walked in on them while on a mission to save their fucking lives. Seriously, what is wrong with these women?!? What is wrong with Jim for bothering with them?!? And what is wrong with the people who think that vicious and violent treatment of genuinely kind and caring men by innocent-looking little women constitutes legitimate comedy?!? It's appalling.

MEET JACKET THE CASTRATICON!!!Holy severed dick, Batman!

And good god, whle we're on that note, let's talk about Jacket. See, when Rose hears the commotion inside the bathroom, the girls are forced to abandon their murderous plan to go out and assure her that everything's okay, leaving Jim to climb out of the tub and don the fabled Robin suit, 'cause it's the only dry item of male clothing in the room. That doesn't mean he's safe, however, because the writers' -- or possibly all of HK, considering their sense of humor -- hatred of men is rivaled only by that of the Black Rose, whose home is patrolled by Jacket. And just what is Jacket, you ask? Jacket is a free-roaming robot that castrates men on sight. I'll say it again: Jacket is a castration robot. WHAT THE FUCK. Once more for emphasis: WHAT THE FUCK. With a period, not a question mark, because I mean that as a statement of just how fucking fucked up this is. It's a goddamned CASTRATICON (first time usage)! WHAT THE FUCK. Okay, I'm done. On second thought, no I'm not!

"If the robot smell any stink from male""or see any male-like or dick-like objects,"
"it'll sink its teeth into it""until the object is killed."

WHAT THE FUCK.

"Are you my crazy lover Robin?""No, Batman is rich in Godham!"

Moving on, after a chase scene that finishes with Jim swinging from the chandelier to avoid the murderious snips of Jacket the Castraticon (second time usage!), Rose enters and rescues him. You see, apparently Rose and Robin had a thing (he supposedly left Batman because Batman couldn't afford his salary) and were even married twenty years ago, but then he left, thereby "explaining" her hatred of men and all things dick-like while still making her out to be a freaking nutcase. Anyway, Rose sees the new Robin and believes he's her long lost lover returned, which results in a "comedic" sequence in which Jim tries to tell her the truth but is forced to play along because every time Rose hears something she doesn't like she calls for Jacket. Eventually, this leads to Jim picking roses with his mouth in order to appease Rose. This guy never gets a break and I'm getting fucking sick and tired of this "humor" that consists of nothing but the relentless torture of nice guys. After his mouth is left scratched and bleeding, Jim tries to escape, but since Rose lives in the bleeding Labyrinth and Jim doesn't have Hoggle, Ludo, and Sir Didymus around to help him navigate the thing, he's unfortunately SOL.

"Ask the world what is love?""I must kill you!"

When Jim finally makes it back to the mansion after wandering blindly about the maze all night, he finds Gill and Charlene merrily eating breakfast. And as someone who's suffered for hours and hours on end as a direct consequence of the girls' actions, he's justifiably pissed -- especially when they ignore his warnings that Rose is batshit insane and tell him they want to stay! Finally, finally, Jim has had enough. He starts to leave, but unfortunately he barely gets two steps before Charlene catches his hand. And then everything stops. She caresses his wounded mouth with her napkin, they stare deeply into each other's eyes. That's right, folks, a love connection has been made! Alas, Rose is watching -- and when she sees her Robin making moon eyes at Charlene, she once again flips the fuck out and tries to stab everyone in the room to death. Seriously.

"I'll eat your flesh, drink your blood!"

Aaaaaand fuck it, you know what? This is way more than enough insanity for one sitting. Join us next week, then, probably not at the same Bat time, but definitely on the same Bat website, for the exciting conclusion of...

Protégé de la Rose Noire
Don't forget your straitjackets, children.

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