Written by:
Emily S. Mendel
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Directed by Simon Yin
Starring: Linus Roache, Kenneth Tsang, Derek Ting, Richard Ng, Kathy Uyen
Screenplay by Derek Ting
Run time: 96 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not rated

“$upercapitalist” exposes the heady, fast-paced, amoral world of New York/Hong Kong high finance and its impact on traditional Hong Kong family enterprises. The basic plot we’ve seen before, both in film and reality. Hostile takeovers, short sales and other financial devices profit financiers, but may break up companies and hurt workers (think Bain Capital). Yet “$upercapitalist” has its own style and complexity.

This small-budget thriller centers on brash Asian American Conner Lee (Derek Ting), a super bright MIT dropout with a difficult family history, whose work at a New York hedge fund takes him to Hong Kong.

The hedge fund manager, Mark Patterson, nicely played by Golden Globe Nominee Linus Roache (“Law and Order”), is a cutthroat and proud of it. But until the film’s dénouement, we don’t realize the full extent of his duplicity.

Conner’s arrival in Hong Kong spices up the film as it captures Hong Kong’s edgy atmosphere, crowds and commercialism. Quentin Wong (Darren E. Scott, “Man with the Iron Fist”), a fellow hedge fund short specialist, introduces Conner to the sexy, glitzy, drug-laden life of the high rollers complete with fast sports cars and gorgeous women. Quentin is a bit like Pinocchio’s bad boys who encourage the naïf to lose his moral compass.

Conner is told that his mission is to improve the productivity of a publically traded family run freight company headed by CEO Donald Chang (Richard Ng), and his older brother Victor (Kenneth Tsang, “Rush Hour 2”, John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow”). By doing so, Conner will improve the value of the hedge fund’s position in the bloated company. But CEO Chang’s Chinese heritage and sense of responsibility toward his workers prevents any change. His unwillingness to make the cuts necessary to improve his company may lead to a takeover or liquidation.

Enter Natalie Wang (Kathy Uyen, “How I Met Your Mother”), a centered, sophisticated PR director who challenges Conner’s quantitative personality by introducing love and family into his life. There is a subplot involving the death of the company’s vice president and his grieving young son. Conner recalls his father’s early death in an unsubtle softening of Conner’s feelings.

Other cutthroats pile on, each with his separate enrichment scheme. Tension rises as goons with baseball bats affect the plot and the direction of the company. As the plot winds down and we think we know where this film is heading, there are still surprises left as we become aware of the full extent of Mark Patterson’s devious machinations. Watching the strategy unfold, we see that Quentin’s advice to Conner at the baccarat table foreshadows the ending.

I liked this film, despite its clunky acting at times. The Hong Kong location and traditions add interest, while at the same time conveying the film’s undercurrent of treachery and danger. And while it is reminiscent of big budget films such as Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” and its sequel, “$upercapitalist” maintains its own sense of style and drama.

“$upercapitalist” opens on Friday, August 24 at the Opera Plaza Theaterin San Francisco. It is also available On Demand through cable and satellite operators as well as through many online providers, including: Amazon, Blockbuster, Vudu, iTunes, CinemaNow, and Zune (search for Supercapitalist).

Emily S. Mendel

© Emily S. Mendel 2012 All Rights Reserved

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