21 November 2011



2007/Director: Pearry Reginald Teo/Writers: Keith Collea, Pearry Reginald Teo

Cast: Ling Bai, Alec Newman, Parry Shen, Faye Dunaway, Ethan Cohn

The Gene Generation with Chinese actress Bai Ling (or Ling Bai as it sometimes appears if you put the family name first) is one of those films that definitely falls into the category of it "could have been better". The movie is not a waste of time and as the Cafe has evolved from its early posts I have taken a rather neutral position on most of the films I write about and I do not feel I actually recommend or pan films. I will leave that up to the reader to decide. While I cannot say I liked The Gene Generation all that much it seems to earn a post here not so much for the erratic storyline and touch and go production quality of the film itself but for the presence of Bai Ling herself. Before talking about, and hopefully defending, the sometimes (actually usually) maligned Bai Ling I think I will say a word about my blogging process and why sometimes it is a drawback for me.

I watch simply more movies than I can do decent posts on. I started the Necrofiles category which is a way to skim over four or so movies at a time with comments of a brief paragraph or two at most. I work as an ESL teacher in China and the job, as well as life here at times, is draining. I may have the time to write but not the mental energy. I think over the last year I have begun to develop a writing style I like. I like a post that draws information from different sources on the net, as well as my own personal opinion, and brings together with images I find online or my own vidcaps into one post. The first thing I do when I decide to write about a film is find articles I like and make them into PDFs for future reference, get cast and crew info from IMDB or a similar site and then start collecting images and then they re all brought together in a rough form and stored as a skeletal draft that I may save for months sometimes before I get around to writing the article. I must have over a dozen drafts now that have are laid out with images and cast/crew info but no written article. During that time of course I am watching more movies of a Uranium nature as well as mainstream films and sometimes doing posts as well on something I just watched. Now what is the point of all this. Well, I checked the draft date on The Gene Generation and the draft6 goes back to the middle of August. It"s been close to two months since I saw the film and to be honest I can't really remember that much about it but I do know I have no desire to watch the film again to refresh my memory on the minutiae. One thing I remember distinctly is that I had a hard time following the film while I was watching it so I do not think it will help me much to skim back over the movie just to churn out a review. So as can often happen in a situation like this I must rely on my over all impressions of the films and information from the PDFs I made to give the reader some idea of what the movie may be about and they can decide whether or not to see the movie. My feelings about most all movies here at the Cafe is that they should be seen. I know my taste can be questionable at best but I am trying to promote or bring to public awareness of films that are overlooked, forgotten or not well known for a variety of reasons, not the least being that they are simply bad movies. But does bad equate to unenjoyable? That is a question of a deep philosophical nature I may take up another day.

But one thing I remember is enjoying Bai Ling in the role of Michelle the assassin. She had the look the part needed and she did well with the action sequences. She conveyed all the necessary elements needed in a brooding, lethal femme fatale and at this point I will diverge once again to say I am a fan of Bai Ling as a personality while not a huge fan of her films roles in general. I liked her as the dirty talking peep show girl who helped to push William H. Macy further over the edge in Edmond and I have a copy of Shanghai Baby here somewhere but have yet to pop it in the player and watch it.  She seems to be most known for showing up at swanky parties and movie premiers with her humongous nipples hanging out of some selection from her gaudy wardrobe. She has dated or spent quality time with a mixed selection of Hollywood guys like Mickey Rourke, Ralph Fiennes and Lionel Ritchie. She draws scorn and ridicule from every direction but like the proverbial duck lets it all run off of her. She receives the most viscous vitriol from sores of nationalistic Chinese who see her has a near traitor for becoming an American citizen and living such an open hedonistic lifestyle in the west with no repercussions. The same scorn lately has been directed at Gong Li and Jet Li for becoming citizens of Singapore. She is from Si Chuan province and lived in the fairly well developed city of Chengdu, which has a reputation for simply gorgeous and open women. I have been to Chengdu and did not notice any of the legendary women because I was dying from the area's equally notorious heat being called one of the Four Furnaces of China. She is no doubt a wild party animal but if you peruse her blog, with the misleading title of Naked Seduction, she conveys a type of human insight, sensitivity and kindness you tend to find in many Chinese people and that is sorely lacking in many Western people these days. But that is way off topic. But I do suggest you check out her blog which she writes herself and so there are certain grammar mistakes related to articles and prepositions common to people who thin in Mandarin and write in English but I would give her an A+ in my class. She has led an exciting and sometimes tragic life (she was committed to a mental institution in China, which usually reeks of political dissent more than actual mental disorders here where psychology and psychiatry as a practices really do not exist) that makes her the type of person that gets promoted here at the Cafe.

Okay, so what The Gene Generation? The film is about what are known as gene hackers. In the post apocalyptic civilization we see in he film people with a certain type of DNA are allowed to live outside what are essentially ghettoes and the gene hackers steal the proper DNA sequence and sell it to people who want to escape the horror and drudgery of life in the dark and violent world they are trapped in. The film here resembles, in look and concept, some other films like Blade Runner, Gattaca and The Matrix. But of course those were all great movies and when you rip-off ideas and visual appearances from great movies you had better do a good job of your movie will simply look like a rip-off. I am not saying that The Gene Generation is a horrible rip-off but it suffers from trying too hard to look like something else than it is. One good example is the use of the hovering crafts over the city the way they hovered over future LA in Blade Runner, with the huge faces of Japanese women promoting products or services while Vangelis"s haunting soundtrack played in the background. In The Gene Generation we have basically the same thing. Huge dirigibles that resemble Chinese junks hover over the ghetto advertising some things or promoting propaganda. It looks sort of cool even given the low budget but it is too obvious that the idea came from Blade Runner and that is not really a bad thing. There is a group of evil scientists who want to take a DNA device that can be used as a medical wonder tool and turn it into a weapon of some sort. The team is, or was led, by Dr. Hayden, who has had her DNA all scrambled up by the device is now hangs from the wall in a mass of slithering tentacles in a state of constant pain. Hayden is played by Faye Dunaway who appears as herself on screen for all of about five minutes. The one remaining by one of it inventors Christian (Alec Newman) who does not want the device used for evil ends. Of course Hayden and her equally evil associates want the device back and will stop at nothing to get it. Now as it so happens Christian"s next door neighbor happens to be Michelle (Bai Ling) who is a paid assassin who kills gene hackers. Little does she know that down the chain her employer actually happens to be one of the evil scientists looking for Christian and the DNA contraption.

Their paths cross when her sniveling weasel of a brother Jackie (Perry Shan) breaks into Christian"s apartment to steal things to pay off gambling debts to a loan shark who seems to have a perverse attraction to Jackie as well as an urge to kill him. The story really gets too convoluted here and that is where most of the problems arise. Too much time is spent on trying to get under the surface of the sibling discord and they both ask each the other "would mom and dad be proud of what you do"? Michelle is always bailing out Jackie but this time he has gone too far and the gangsters accept her paying off the debts but they have decided to do in the little smart ass anyway. Michelle gets all tangled up with Christian in more ways than one. And if I have to spell it out for you Bai Ling gets naked with him.

Some people criticize the action sequences but I thought they were pretty good. I may have some reservations about the over use of CGI blood spatter rather than good old fashioned real fake blood but that is where a lot of new films seem to be headed and in particular here in Asia. The film is working on a low budget and spotty script but young Asian director Perry Reginald Teo handles things admirably and with a bigger budget and tighter script I think will turn out some good, gritty films in the future. The story is based on a comic book but I did not check into that too much. I just wish there had more action in this one and less brother/sister/family emotional struggle. Now living in Asia I know that that theme can be more important in films than in the West and we are even treated to a protracted and excruciating death scene that is really becoming cliche in Japanese, Korean and Hong Kong films. Probably in mainland Chinese films as well but I end to avoid movies made on the mainland because they are not watchable anymore to me. If Bai Ling had killed more bad guys and been naked more this would have been a pretty good movie. Sadly her skills wasted by trying to emote too much with her loser brother who we never come to like anyway. There are certainly moments in this film and I would not be adverse to a better budgeted sequel. The film has a following so who knows. I would only watch it however  if sultry and sassy Bai Ling returned as Michelle.


msmariah said...

This reminds me, whatever happened to Bai Ling. She used to be a favorite b-movie queen, but I haven't seen her in anything in a while.

Bill D. Courtney said...

There was Shanghai Baby in 2007 which seemed like a big role for her. I have not seen the film but I have the DVD here. I remember reading about a relationship with Mickey Rourke at about the same time and right now she is in and out of rehab. She was in a few lower level flicks too, some I have seen, in smaller roles but I can't remember the names right now. IMDB shows she was involved in ten projects for that year, so she is not retired.

She certainly is an interesting personality and has taken a beating in the press and from the public in general and perhaps has withdrawn for a while because of the negative pressure. I am not sure.

Anonymous said...

the last commit i read im sure agreed on maybe more action, but more nakedness just wont seem too right for this movie in my opinion

Bill D. Courtney said...

Right. If you want to see Bai Ling naked she is all over the net with no clothes on.Nudity only detracts from movies now. the 70's and 80's are behind us and gratuitous nudity usually only spells a bad flick nowadays.

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