The Goldfinger

European Premiere | In Competition

Guest star: Felix Chong, director


When filming began in early 2021 on The Goldfinger, one of Hong Kong’s most expensive films ever, the city’s movie business was mired in pandemic woes. The year before had seen local cinemas ordered shut, and over in the mainland a production shutdown had put many joint-venture projects on the skids. With its extraordinary budget of HK$350 million (41 million euros), the true-crime epic from feted Infernal Affairs co-writer Felix Chong would offer a shakeup – a prestige project to give the home team a lift.

Released to cinemas in time for the start of this year, The Goldfinger lives up to its promise of high-end production values. The two leads of Infernal Affairs, actors Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Andy Lau, are together again onscreen and playing off each other brilliantly, only this time with their good-guy/bad-guy roles switched. And behind the scenes, lavish design and lengthy post-production gave the film a sleek look in recreating Hong Kong of the 1970s and ’80s.

The trip to the past follows the fortunes of Henry Ching (Tony Leung), a character based on Carrian Group founder George Tan, who saw his Hong Kong business empire collapse in a corruption scandal. Ching turns up in the city in the mid-1970s and calls himself an engineer. Instead he gets involved with property developers and falls upward, starting off with a key bogus-investor role in a land deal. He sets up a company spontaneously named after his first hire, Carmen Cheung (Charlene Choi), and promptly he’s flipping properties, branching out into areas like transport, pest control and travel services, and manipulating stock prices and using shares as cash to get funding. His coup along the way is symbolically taking control of an office tower from a British conglomerate and turning a huge profit, and his office is a penthouse palace adorned with golden mirrors and statues.

Ching also finds himself under the scrutiny of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, which had commenced work a few years earlier with a famously rocky start. As Ching’s Carmen Century group rises, ICAC investigator Lau Kai-yuen (Andy Lau) suspects fraud and bribery. Multiple charges are laid on the cheery and enigmatic tycoon, but nothing sticks in his first trial. It’ll take a lot more persistence for Lau to bring down his target.

Having already delivered corporate-crime sagas in the Overheard series, writer-director Chong knows a thing or two about spicing up the genre, adding a zing to scenes like stock-market trading and keeping them accessible. In The Goldfinger, antihero Ching becomes a charismatic and mysterious rogue, enjoying his climb up Hong Kong’s social ranks and becoming a business celebrity whom investors put their faith in. But aside from covering the expected backroom deals and threats, Chong flings in murder, high-level international connections, and, most outrageous, an explosive battle scene in the Golden Triangle.

While The Goldfinger’s portrayals of the British in the corporate world and the courts are clunky and the finale feels muted, Chong’s colonial Hong Kong tale is by and large a flamboyant epic. Just as it was with several other films looking back on shady characters in that era, from the true-crime Trivisa to the prostitute comedy-drama Golden Chicken, some in the cinema may feel nostalgia for a time quite unlike the current doldrums.

Even in Henry Ching’s sordid tale, the city hosts a confident, glitzy and freewheeling existence with people dreaming big, no matter what the costs may be.

Tim Youngs
Film director: Felix CHONG
Year: 2023
Running time: 126'
Country: Hong Kong
27/04 - 4:40 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
27-04-2024 16:40 27-04-2024 18:46Europe/Rome The Goldfinger Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine