Photo courtesy of asiancinevision.org
On a rainy Saturday evening in Chelsea, $upercapitalist, an independent financial thriller, enjoyed a sold-out theatre for its world premiere. The film was played as the centerpiece of the 2012 Asian American International Film Festival, which runs until August 5 in New York.
Shot in New York, Macau and Hong Kong the story follows young finance genius Conner Lee, played by co-writer and co-producer Derek Ting. Connor moves to Hong Kong, aiming to take control of Chinese company Fey and Chang to please his boss, hedge fund manager Mark Patterson played by Linus Roache. He has a complex family history in Hong Kong; his father died on a business trip in Hong Kong and his estranged mother had lived there for years.
Connor looks to seasoned American transplant Quentin (played by Darren E. Scott) to get the hang of the HK lifestyle and things can't seem to get any better—until he realizes he is seriously failing at what Mark sent him to do.
A few dirty tricks seem to put his life back on track but as he gets more involved with the company's director of public relations, Natalie Wang played by Kathy Uyen, he starts to listen to her persistent message that there are other ways of doing business. Like any good financial thriller, the film is filled with twists and turns fueled by betrayal.
It reminded me of Wall Street, down to casting Linus Roache as the evil hedge fund manager Mark Patterson, who could be Michael Douglas' younger brother. Some of the acting was quite good, including Linus Roache as Mark and his shady associate in the film, played by Darren E. Scott. I would have preferred Darren in the lead role for two reasons: 1. He built a very strong character with Quentin and I wish the same could have been done with Connor. 2. He is from Vancouver. (what what?!)
The plot itself was engaging but there was one thing about the film that really irked me as a woman of colour—the overdone effort to show the hyper-masculinity of the finance world.
I understand the need to present the world of finance as a testosterone-fueled shit show but it was a bit too much to take. It felt like women weren't the intended audience as it played out every 17-year-old heterosexual male's dream of women, cars and drugs as vehicles of pleasure to be bought.
With the exception of one character the majority of women in the film were nameless pretty girls at a club or prostitutes. The one female with a prominent role in the film, Kathy Uyen's character, was written in a formulaic "strong woman" sort of way.
This point was particularly disappointing because it detracted from portraying a contemporary Hong Kong. Statistically there are more women than men in Hong Kong (about 10 percent more), and there are many successful women in finance in Hong Kong. There's a stereotype in Hong Kong that Hong Kong men prefer more submissive women. I wonder if the screenplay is a response to this in some way?
If you are into financial thrillers and can stomach the level of sexism most other Hollywood films will throw at you, download the film on iTunes starting August 10. All in all, $upercapitalist is worth seeing just for Darren's stellar performance.