Ricky Hui (1946-2011) was the ultimate little man. In life as it was in art, he would play the role of the neglected, appearing for example as the unassuming third member of the Hui Brothers team. Yet he was not forgotten, as he quietly rose to stardom with his comic prowess and acting. Four films will be featured at the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s "Morning Matinee" series next month to commemorate Hui's acting career.
The film series "Remembering Ricky Hui" will be screened on January 6, 13, 20 and 27 at the Cinema of the HKFA. The four films to be shown are director John Woo's early production "From Riches to Rags" (1980); the Hui Brothers' comedy "Security Unlimited" (1981); "Plain Jane to the Rescue" (1982), starring Hui and Josephine Siao; and the ghost comedy "Haunted Cop Shop" (1987), with Jacky Cheung and Hui as cop partners.
Of the three Hui brothers, Ricky Hui knowingly and humbly remained in the shadow of older brother Michael Hui's comic genius and younger brother Sam Hui's popularity. He quietly took on star status, sneaking into audiences' consciousness and earning respect and affection with his understated acting and comic genius. He was multi-talented, leaving his mark not only in film but also in music.
His remarkable films include the Hui Brothers team's "The Private Eyes" (1976), "The Contract" (1978) and "Security Unlimited", as well as "The Pilferer's Progress" (1977) and "From Riches to Rags". In the 1980s, he shined with his brilliant comic performances in the ghost films "Mr Vampire" (1985), "Haunted Cop Shop" and "Haunted Cop Shop II" (1988). He stopped regular acting in the mid-1990s. He died last month but the greatness of his littleness will be fondly remembered.
In director John Woo's "From Riches to Rags", Hui and Johnny Koo play the grass-roots odd couple. After winning the Mark Six, Hui suspects he is suffering from a fatal illness and decides to have himself murdered. The vivid imagination of Woo evokes laughter, and the comic style of Hui portraying the downside of being rich is an exercise in 20th century Chinese ambivalence toward money.
"Security Unlimited", like the other films in which all three Hui brothers appeared together, is full of visual gags, explosive laughter and poignant social comment. Ricky Hui has a meaty role, which includes romance with an illegal immigrant. Although he was not playing a major role, he was able to hone his acting skills alongside the comic genius of his older brother and the handsome presence of his younger brother, establishing himself as a legitimate comedian.
"Plain Jane to the Rescue" may have been a vehicle for Josephine Siao, who stars and produces, but it is also marked by the great performance of Hui, who doubles as her sidekick and lover, and the crazed comic energy of John Woo's direction. The film, like the best of comedies, also offers exceptionally poignant insight into a changing society, especially in the story about real estate developers making life miserable.
With a script written by Jeff Lau and Wong Kar-wai, "Haunted Cop Shop" combines elements of East and West, old and new into a remarkable creative ghost comedy. Hui is partnered with Jacky Cheung, and together they play a pair of bumbling policemen who find themselves upholding law and disorder in a zany world of twisted urbanity. Hui is the dim-witted half of the comedy team; he shines with his usual understated comic style of the common man.
All films are in Cantonese with Chinese and English subtitles.
Tickets priced at $20 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Credit card bookings can be made at 2111 5999, or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Detailed programme information can be obtained in the leaflet distributed at all performance venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900, or browse the website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2011mm/2011mm_film.html.
Ends/Friday, December 30, 2011
A film still from "From Riches to Rags" (1980).
A film still from "Security Unlimited" (1981).
A film still from "Plain Jane to the Rescue" (1982).
A film still from "Haunted Cop Shop" (1987).