Pin-Chuan Kao’s The Gangs, The Oscars, and The Walking Dead, which is screening as part of the New York Asian Film Festival feels very much like the Taiwanese answer to One Cut of the Dead. The film is the story of two filmmaker best friends, who grew up loving genre movies. Producer BS (Roy Chiu) and director Wexi (Di-Yang Huang), thanks to bad luck, end up working off their debt from an unfinished project to the triads. After impressing their boss Brother Long (Shao-hua Lung) with a funeral video, the pair are recruited to make a fully financed film for the gangster under two conditions — one that it has to shoot in Japan and two it has to star the boss’ much younger and promiscuous girlfriend (Yi Ti Yao). With a long in gestation zombie project that Wexi hopes will land him at the American Oscars, he takes the deal. The only problem is the boss’ girlfriend accidentally kills herself at the film’s production launch party.
Instead of letting their boss know his girlfriend is dead, our filmmakers desperately want the show to go on. I mean, do you know how hard it is to get financing for an independent film? So the film turns into this bizarre Weekend at Bernie’s, meets Why Don’t You Play in Hell? riff, played out to the backdrop of One Cut of the Dead. Got all that so far? TGTOATWD is a hilariously wild ride filled with film nerds, gangsters, zombies and Thai ladyboys. From start to finish this film just keeps throwing more and more insanity at the screen as one thing leads to another and it continues to add on with a wicked sense of humor that will resonate with any film buff, or genre fan. Pin-Chuan Kao definitely pulls no punches as he portrays our filmmaker protagonists as two men who will literally do anything to get their zombie epic on the big screen.
The performances here are what ultimately sell this and gives this bizarre gem its heart and soul and I’m not just talking about just Di-Yang Huang or Roy Chiu either, although both definitely turn in solid performances. Shao-hua Lung, who plays the older gangster turned lead actor gives the heavy an oddly endearing duality that actually makes you root for the guy after you realize he can really act. He is paired with Yi Ti Yao who is tasked with two roles, not just the boss’ girlfriend, but her transgender Ladyboy doppelgänger as well. It’s this performance that takes a character that could have just been simply a punchline of a stereotype, and by fleshing her out into a real character really elevates this film from its simple genre trappings.
TGTOATWD was a very strong start to this year’s NYAFF for me and a high bar to set going forward. I was thoroughly impressed with not only the production values, but the performances and the crude, yet progressive humor. It’s not an easy recipe for a gangster zombie comedy, but it works really well here. The script, while somewhat predicable, still works while delivering the laughs. Honestly, I can’t recommend this title enough if you’re at NYAFF. And if you can’t check it out on its festival run, it’s definitely worth seeking on dvd/blu-ray after the fact. I simply loved The Gangs, The Oscars, and The Walking Dead, it literally had anything I could want as a genre fan and so much more.