The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE GOLDFINGER | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - THE GOLDFINGER

The Goldfinger review
The chairman of a company becomes the subject of a lengthy investigation by an anti-corruption officer.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Felix Chong

Starring: Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Charlene Choi, Simon Yam, Alex Fong, Catherine Chau

The Goldfinger poster

Destabilising to think that no matter how hard you work, how prudently you invest your money or how carefully you save; somewhere in a boardroom far beyond your circumstance, upon stock exchange trading floors, or via the MPC, your financial fate is being decided right now by figures you've never met, who are deploying your meagre capital in the service of wealth and influence which you will never ever experience (or even, I'll be honest, fully understand). An engine propelled by its own abstract locomotion of debt and loan and interest: always more, more, more. Mad to think that UK money isn't even literal money but is instead a printed, empty pledge "to pay the bearer on demand" some gold: yeah, alright! Market Capitalism: the biggest confidence game of all time.

The Goldfinger review

Somewhat disingenuously billed as an action/thriller, Felix Chong's The Goldfinger is set in the 1980s (when money first came into existence) and is stringently based upon the criminal George Tan, his scandalous Carrian Group, and the subsequent bankruptcy of said financial organisation predicated upon its capital transpiring to be "nothing more than loans from banking institutions." The effect on the Chinese economy was notable.

From the writer of Infernal Affairs and featuring two stars of the franchise, Tony Leung and Andy Lau, one might be primed for a bureaucratic thriller of two-steps-forward-one-back cat and mousery with occasionally kinetic action sequences - a fair promise to pay the bearer on demand, right? Unfortunately, viewing The Goldfinger is as weirdly inert as watching the Ftse 100 index - a repetitive and vaguely impenetrable experience.

The Goldfinger review

The Goldfinger certainly opens with promise. Hundreds of police officers are seen rioting against the ICAC who are in the process of clearing up corruption within the law, in a tableaux involving hundreds of extras within a Hong Kong street. This sequence is neatly congruous with The Goldfinger's themes, not only in terms of setting up notions of shifty institutions (irl the ICAC are a questionable body) and blurred moralities, but also in the sense of spectacle evoked: budgeted at HK$350 million, The Goldfinger is one of the most expensive Chinese films ever made. You wonder if investors will be pleased by the use of their money...

The ensuing plot involves ICAC member Lau Kai-yuen (Lau), pursuing kingpin Tony Ching (Leung), following a stock market crash. We cut back to Tony's rags-to-riches trajectory, his bold investments in real estate and his perfidious interactions with the stock market via his multi-million outfit, the "Carmen" group. This is related in lux mise-en-scenes of utterly gorgeous suits, cliche signifiers of wealth (cigars, cocktails) and exclusive nightclubs. Nonetheless, the whole thing feels so completely joyless, on both sides. Take Goodfellas (an obvious touchstone, I know, but the Scorsese dynamic is all but acknowledged by Chong): in that tale of corruption we feel the pull and glamour of crime, that illicit power, even while decrying it (we have our coke and snort it, etc). In contrast, The Goldfinger methodically depicts the process of some crooks getting richer via various brash confidence tricks. Do we care if they're stopped? Only from a dimly recalled moral perspective, I suppose, rather than investment in Lau Kai-yuen's character. And, from the other side, the lads never seem that thrillingly debauched, either. I'd imagine you got up to worse over Christmas, you massive caner, you!

The Goldfinger review

Fans of Infernal Affairs will be especially disappointed at this follow-up's relative lack of stakes and challenged moral positioning. In The Goldfinger, Chong seems to have lost his Midas touch.

The Goldfinger is in UK/ROI cinemas from January 5th.

2024 movie reviews