2014’s trend of raucous, foul-mouthed Hong Kong comedies inspired by Pang Ho Cheung’s hit Vulgaria continued with the category III rated Naked Ambition 3D which follows Chapman To as an unlikely AV (Adult Video) star making his way in the Japanese industry. The film was directed by Lee Kung Lok and co-written and produced by HK veteran Chan Hing Ka, who’s worked on everything from A Better Tomorrow and the original 2003’s Naked Ambition through to more recent fare like The Midas Touch and the 2011 and 2012 installments of All’s Well Ends Well. Along with the popular To, the film also stars Josie Ho (Dream House), plus a bevy of real AV actresses, including Aso Nozomi, Tatsumi Yui, Yume Kana and Okita Anri, all of whom work hard to provide the film with its most obvious selling points.
The film opens with Chapman To as Wai Man, a struggling writer of erotic fiction who lives in the shadow of his far more successful girlfriend Cecilia (Candy Yuen) in Hong Kong. Along with his fellow AV-obsessed friends, he takes a trip to Japan to try and make money by shooting their own pornographic film with a famous actress (Tatsumi Yui), aided by ex-pat Hong-Konger Shodaiko (Josie Ho), only to find himself reluctantly having to step in front of the camera to perform. His submissive, less than manly showing unexpectedly makes the film a huge hit with the ladies, and he decides to stay in Japan, managed by Shodaiko and taking on the name Mario Ozawa (no doubt a nod to top AV actress Maria Ozawa). His unique style and the reversal of male and female roles soon make him one of the most popular AV actors in the business, and all seems to be going well until Cecilia decides to join him in Japan and a rival from Hong Kong (Louis Koo) tries to steal his crown.
Naked Ambition 3D is very much old school category III nonsense rather than the sharp foul-mouthed Vulgaria style wordplay, and though it does take a few vague stabs at satire and social commentary, for the most part, its mind is well and truly in the gutter. Unashamedly messy, chaotic and anecdotal, the film very rarely makes any sense, bouncing its way between gags and wacky set pieces and throwing in a constant stream of Hong Kong and Japanese pop culture references. For fans of this kind of film, it’s generally pretty funny, and shows more creativity and rude imagination than other recent genre outings like Hardcore Comedy with a number of genuinely side-splitting scenes – in particular, its cameos work very well, including Japanese AV vet Taka Kato, Charlene Choi, Ronald Cheng, and Golden Chicken herself, Sandra Ng. Special mention has to go to Louis Koo, who here puts in one of his funniest appearances for some time, stealing most of his scenes with dignity-free charm.
Anyone watching the film for the AV angle probably won’t be disappointed and will be glad to hear that there’s a very high nudity quotient throughout, most of it being amusingly gratuitous. As usual with this kind of film, there’s very little attempt at anything erotic, the sex scenes being played for laughs at Chapman To’s expense – as a result, the film has a kind of innocent sauciness and never gets sleazy or misogynistic. This sits comfortably with the slapstick and silliness, and Lee Kung Lok directs with enthusiasm and a cheerful lack of pretension, keeping the film bouncing along at a fun pace.
Unsurprisingly, the film isn’t quite so successful when it tries to get a bit more serious, though thankfully this isn’t too often. Lee does try to inject a little heart and humanity into the proceedings, via Wai Man’s troubled relationship with Cecilia, plus his flirtations and moments with the various AV starlets, and the film employs this to make a few observations on male/female roles. However, this falls flat, mainly because To is clearly not the cute, weak-willed type that the Mario Ozawa gag revolves around him being, swearing and cursing his way through in his usual fashion. Without much in the way of character development or any real conviction in its emotional content or subplots, it’s hard not to see the film as fairly straightforward wish-fulfillment for its target audience.
For the right viewers, this doesn’t really matter of course, and Naked Ambition 3D delivers on its modest promise regarding lewd gags and copious nudity. Despite it being scattershot and uneven, the laughs are certainly there, and with Chapman To and a great cast giving the material a lift, it’s one of the funnier low brow Hong Kong comedies of late.