‘Imprisoned: Survival Guide for Rich and Prodigal’ Review: The film based upon a popular online novel
Imprisoned: Survival Guide for Rich and Prodigal (Luat Tu) certainly has promising credentials for fans of Hong Kong exploitation cinema, being directed by Christopher Sun, the man behind the 2011 international hit 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy, and who also produced Due West: Our Sex Journey in 2012. Reuniting him with Due West star Gregory Wong. The film was based upon a popular online novel published on Golden Forum. And follows the supposedly true experiences of a rich brat who end up behind bars. Joining Wong are Justin Cheung (3D Sex and Zen) and Liu Kai Chi (That Demon Within). Along with a long list of HK veterans and sleaze cinema favourites.
While the situations have an abundance of built-in drama. The filmmakers miss opportunities for stronger conflict or tension. Plus the treatment of female characters is excessively juvenile even by this genre’s already regressive standards. Imprisoned begins and ends with women as sex objects. And even though Nelson bemoans his separation from his girlfriend May (Jessy Lee). He still keeps a mistress, plus he drones on and on about the importance of women having big boobs.
So much for prison making him a better person, eh? Technically, the movie is only OK. Better editing could have tightened up the pace and the visuals are unremarkable. The prison interiors are almost always dark, which presumably is meant to add “grittiness”, but just makes the film look cheap. Director Christopher Sun is not much of a stylist or storyteller. But he directed 3D Sex and Zen so any high expectations would be our fault.
Also, there’s too much voiceover. Whole sections of the film (phim hanh dong hai 2021) are explain via long swathes of droning Nelson narration. Though at one point the disembodied chatter cuts off a potentially long Liu Kai-Chi monologue – a bonus for those who tense up at the threat of a Liu Kai-Chi overacting barrage. That’s not many people. But Imprisoned probably isn’t for that many people either, as it lacks much to recommend outside of its standard tropes and occasional trashiness. It would be nice to say better things about it. But Imprisoned is one of those films that pleases already inclined audiences without impressing anyone else. It’s a derivative and unremarkable Hong Kong movie that’s comfortable being one and in the final analysis, that’s OK. Hong Kong already has classic prison movies anyway.