Get The Hell Out
Taiwan (2020) Dir. I-Fan Wang
Politics is a messy business to get involved in. It is where people shed their humanity, and their instincts for self-preservation reduce them to committing acts of shameless venality and display levels of immorality unthinkable to most. In short – it turns people into monsters. A bit like the folks in this film…
Wang You-Wei (Bruce Hung) is working as a security guard for the Taiwanese parliament with no interest in politics, until he becomes an overnight sensation after footage of him fighting fearsome female MP Ying-ying (Megan Lai) goes viral. Ying-ying is opposing the building of a chemical plant said to emit a virus that causes rabies in people, but her short temper with a press photographer leads to an all out brawl and she is fired.
To keep the opposition campaign going, Ying-ying bullies You-Wei into standing as an MP to capitalise on his newfound fame, but when elected, he sides with a proponent of the plant’s construction, ex-gangster-turned-MP Li Kou-Chung (Wang Chung-huang). During the Taiwanese president’s arrival at Parliament after visiting the plant, the pale looking President suddenly attacks the house speaker by biting his neck before going on the rampage, kicking off a zombie epidemic!
Debuting director I-Fan Wang opens this zom-com with caustic thought: “A wrong movie makes you suffer for only 90 minutes; A wrong government makes you suffer for four years”. I’m certainly not going to dispute that (except we Brits have had the wrong government for the past decade) but this would strongly imply to the audience if they didn’t read the plot synopsis that this was a scathing satire on politics.
Get The Hell Out effectively dispenses with the political commentary after the first act, only to lightly resume it at the very end. In the meantime, there are subtle – and not so subtle – allegories of the political process in the survival plan as the zombie numbers increases, but not all of them hit. At least I-Fan is aware that if this doesn’t appeal to some, there is always some zombie gore not too far away.
One thing the film has going for it is how manic it is, visually and in its pace, though a consequence is little character development for those more than caricatures. Despite being the co-lead, Ying-ying isn’t given much beyond being a dyspeptic, hardheaded woman who cares about her family. If the chemical plant is built, her family home will be demolished and her caretaker father (Tsung-Hua To) still lives there.
She become an MP was because she knew she couldn’t trust any of the current MPs to stop the project from being too corrupt. Yes, she uses that word in her opening voice over, which is as seditious as the script gets. If the cameraman hadn’t provoked her and she hadn’t beaten him up with wrestling moves (a recurring theme).
You-Wei is a feckless security guard with a rare nosebleed disorder. A flashback reveals Ying-ying beat up bullies who teased him at school about it, prompting You-Wei to fall in love with her. He figures if he gets power as an MP, Ying-ying will fall in love with him and not see him as a weed. Even throughout the mayhem, You-Wei is trying to impress Ying-ying though it is usually her saving him.
But Ying-ying is also concerned when her father is also caught up in the fray, along with acerbic civil servant Feng-Hua (Francesca Kao). Diagnosed with terminal cancer she has nothing to live for but now is fighting for survival. Kou-Chung is the most cartoonish figure in his bright coloured suits, large quiff, dark glasses, and smarmy demeanour to delineate his gangster credentials. If this wasn’t a zany comedy Kou-chung and his gang would look ridiculous, so it is a huge relief we are not meant to take this so seriously.
Fortunately, the cast are completely onboard with the absurdity I-Fan bombards us with, throwing themselves into every mad scenario with commitment, verve, and the self-awareness required to keep the tongue-in-cheek vibe rolling. It seems to be a rite of passage to be doused by a geyser of blood and nobody is spared, whilst battling crazed flesh-eaters is also a mandatory – no gender discrimination here.
Megan Lai is fantastic as Ying-ying, her facial expressions and physical comedy are on point and she has a magnetic presence, overshadowing listed star Bruce Hung, who is maybe too good at being such a milquetoast character like You-Wei. Francesca Kao is amusingly dry as Feng-Hua, whilst Wang Chung-huang hams it up to the max as Kou-Chung. Everyone seems to be having fun here and it is quite infectious even when the gags don’t quite hit the target.
I-Fan proudly wears the aesthetic influence of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on his sleeve, overloading the presentation with garish on-screen graphics to introduce the cast or caption a scene, a literal video game style fight, and similar visual embellishments that come thick and fast. This also applies to the zombie action – bursts of frantic, chaotic, blood soaked havoc that rarely sticks with the viewer unless the plot dictates one of the central cadre is bitten or in danger.
And yet, there is every chance those drawn to this because of the idea of mixing politics with zombies to make a trenchant point about the system in this age of venal selfishness will view this an opportunity lost. I-Fan might have been a bit too ambitious in bringing these two elements together, perhaps hoping one would balance out the other to suit the differing tastes, though only one is truly catered for.
With Get The Hell Out we can deduce I-Fan wanted to make a clever zombie comedy film but made one that is silly and fast paced enough to deliver plenty of OTT fun, some decent laughs, and competent genre fare, but offers little food for thought or any of the biting satire it implies at the start.