Blindly going into the new movie, Gold Buster, serves as an interesting crapshoot from the start, which is exactly what it was for me after hitting the Start button. In parallel though, celebrated actress Sandra Ng’s directorial debut is one loaded with the sorts of gags and hijinks that you’d expect in an Asian comedy, and certainly one that pays off greatly in feel-good fashion.
Set within the confines of a rundown housing complex in Paradise Garden, a ragtag group of residents find themselves cordoned off from returning into their homes following a spate of seemingly supernatural events. Desperate to solve the problem, they turn to a flamboyant exorcist to ward off the recurring spirits running rampant. What ensues is more anarchy as revelations are made involving a greedy land developer and his son, and an air of duplicity that forces our false prophet to see the truth of her actions and fight for the people she now views as family.
The cast is comprised of a colorful lot with Francis Ng and Alex Wong playing Ming and Ren, two gangsters – one of whom thinks he’s a cop from time to time. Joining in is actor Zhang Yi who plays Wang, a medicinal doctor living mournfully with his son in the wake of his ailing passing, in addition to actor Pan Binlong and actress and viral video sensation, Jiang Yi Lei who play struggling inventors Jin San and Li Jihua. Actress Zhou Dongyu bookends our roster of resident idiosyncratic spectrophobes as Ping, an erotic camgirl easily scared by the faux-ghoulish spurts. Opposite our line-up is actor Yue Yuenpeng who plays the land developer’s son and employer of two bumbling pranksters portrayed by Alan Aruna and Juncong Xu. Mission Milano co-star Shen Teng takes on the role of our eager land developer.
Asian cinema has often seen its share of gonzo comedy that isn’t afraid to go over-the-top at times. With Ng at the helm and horror as its filter, Gold Buster isn’t the least bit afraid of doing just that in the course of poking fun at itself from time to time, and achieving a little more in the process with its own fitting touch of poignancy. Autopilot is put to ample use when it comes to many of the stunts and shenanigans that play out with Ng in full bloom as Golden Ling.
Jabs at Asian cinema vampire, ghost and zombie lore also take hold, often topped with an extra peppering of outlandishness, a fact exemplary made clear with Shen leading a dance line to a repurposed, albeit familiar Michael Jackson track. More touching scenes are on display fewer than not while still lending a fair bit of gravitas to the narrative, including a major moment featuring Zhang Yi with his son, played by young actor Li Yihang, strapped to his back as they crawl on a ladder high atop two buildings to escape a swarm of zombies.
The jokes and setups take a life of their own nearing fourth wall-breaking effect, and all handed to audiences with rousing performances that energize the story and its overt goofiness. It doesn’t end with the film either as much of it continues into the end credits in off-cuff fashion with Zhou commanding the screen in darling fashion, and serving as a fun and fine sign-off signaling a worthy first for the venerable actress more than thirty years honing in her craft.