Naked Ambition 2 (aka Naked Ambition 3D)
Hong Kong (2014) Dir. Kung-Lok Lee
For some people, “AV” stands for “Audio Visual” but for others – especially in Far East Asia – it stand for “Adult Video”. It is the latter than serves as the topic of this apparent sequel to a ribald 2003 outing (helmed by no less a director than current thriller master Dante Lam) as if you hadn’t already guessed by the title.
Wyman Chan (Chapman To) is a writer of erotic stories for a newspaper but the internet killing off physical media for the genre the newspaper discontinues it. Needing a job, Chan makes a flippant remark to his bootleg Adult DVD seller friends Larry (Tyson Chak) and Simon (Derek Tsang) that they could easily make their own AV to make some money. With a consortium of AV fan investors Chan and friends take a trip to Tokyo, to meet up with Larry’s DVD supplier Shodaiko Hatoyama (Josie Ho) who sets them up with a company to make the film.
Arriving on set the group are delighted their actress is (genuine AV star) Yui Tatsumi but their demands to spice up the shoot cause the male actor to walk out of the shoot. Needing a replacement Chan is nominated by the others to take on the role, and surprisingly his shyness amuses Yui who takes on the role of aggressor in the scene. Thinking nothing of it when Chan returns to Hong Kong, the video has gone viral on the internet with Japanese women delighted to see the female in the dominant role in an AV video for a change. Thus a new AV star is born.
With Japan being probably the only country where the internet hasn’t killed off its adult industry the setting for this bawdy yarn is more pertinent than just giving the cast a holiday. The intention, it is suggested, is to satirise the Japanese AV industry which is notorious for its various quirks and peccadilloes along with its rather archaic idea of still portraying woman in a subservient role. In some small ways this is achieved but by no means to the extent it should have, instead being what you might expect it to be – an excuse for lewd humour and naked women.
Assuming the pseudonym Mario Ozawa (a riff on top AV star Maria Ozawa) Chan’s rise to the top of the jizz bizz in Japan is meteoric and with Shodaiko as his agent, Chan gets to work with the top names including Nozomi Aso, Anri Okita and Tsukasa Aoi, who plays timorous newbie Noriko Waiyama who freaks out on her first ever shoot with Chan. Noriko runs away but Chan manages to calm her down and by treating her like a human being earns her trust and helps her confidence.
It sounds like an odd thing to be viewed as a positive considering the context but it does provide the film with arguably its most touching and tender moment amongst the bombast of prurience and AV lampooning. Aoi was the perfect casting choice for this scene as she has a truly angelic face, which raises the question about the women in Japan who enter into such a maligned business. In the west one can look at an adult film star and know their job– they have that certain “look”; Japanese AV star are either Hollywood level gorgeous or genuine girl next door pure. Honestly, asked to choose an AV star from a line up with J-pop stars, teachers or office workers and I guarantee you’d pick the wrong one.
Providing a crisis point for Chan is girlfriend Cecilia (Candy Yuen), a successful romantic novelist who remains in Hong Kong while Chan gets his end away. Cecilia doesn’t mind the expensive gifts Chan sends home to her and seems to accept his career move until she loses contracts with Hong Kong and Mainland China over her association with an AV star, expediating the inevitable break up with a career threatening kick to the groin!
Chapman To may have a reputation for being outspoken, recently causing controversy regarding his opinions on political matters, but he also seems to have shed the serious actor credentials he earned with the Infernal Affairs trilogy to be the new face of smutty comedies. Starting with Vulgaria To’s recent output has been in this vein and shows no signs of relenting just yet, although whether that is a good thing is matter of opinion – and indeed taste.
His AV co-stars provide not just the pulchritude but, Aoi in particular, show some potential acting chops. Josie Ho, who appeared in the original film delivers what can only be described as an awkward performance as Shodaiko while fellow Hong Kong stars Charlene Choi and Sandra Ng make embarrassing cameos. Co-Producer Louis Koo (yes THAT Louis Koo) also cameos as a rival to Chan’s AV dominance; Koo also starred in the original but this frankly does him no favours at all even if he does attack this role with gusto.
With so much scope for an acute addressing of the state of the AV industry and how far attitude towards women have shifted in the West, it is a shame that the opportunity is so badly missed. Granted there are some laughs – Chan’s training with “Hand Of God” male AV star Taka Kato is a hoot (ever seen a fly orgasm? You will here!) otherwise the jokes fall flat after the audience has already figured them out.
Naked Ambition 2 isn’t quite the write off I may have made it out to be but it does feel like a disappointment considering what it could have achieved with its initial sardonic aspirations. It’s oddly entertaining but perhaps not for the same reasons hoped for by the filmmakers.