.

The Laserman

Marc Hayashi, Maryann Urbano, Tony Leung Ka Fai

Directed by Peter Wang
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 0
Community: star rating
5 0 0
March 31, 1990

Misuse of science is an odd subject for a screwball thriller, unless you factor in writer-director-actor Peter Wang. A laser specialist with a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, the Chinese-born Wang changed vocations when he learned his work was serving government weapons programs. His lifelong interest in the arts led him to film. In 1982, director Wayne Wang (no relation) cast him as a cook in Chan Is Missing; his jolly performance won raves. Four years later, Peter Wang made his feature directorial debut with A Great Wall, a film he also acted in and co-wrote about a Chinese American family's return to Beijing after three decades.

His second feature, The Laserman, shares the theme of assimilation among immigrants. In the film, set in the cultural Babel of New York's Chinatown, Wang plays Lieutenant Lu, a disoriented Columbo involved in the case of scientist Arthur Weiss, perceptively acted by Marc Hayashi. Weiss, a Chinese-Jewish laser expert, loses his lab job when one of his experiments accidentally blows up his assistant. "Don't we ever learn?" says Lu. "Modern technology kills."

Weiss learns all too well when he gets involved with a group of political assassins out to exploit the lethal aspects of laser technology. Weiss's mother (Joan Copeland) – who dubs herself "a Chinese soul trapped in a Jewish body" – enlists the aid of her friend Lu, dragging the hapless lieutenant into a cultural free-for-all. A game cast, aided by richly evocative photography from Ernest Dickerson (Do the Right Thing), expertly mines the script's rude, spirited humor. Weiss's sister (Neva Small) is married to a Chinatown promoter (Tony Leung) in business with the bad guys. Weiss, divorced with a young son, has an Occidental girlfriend (Maryann Urbano) who frustrates him by trying to achieve "orgasm through meditation." The melting pot is too much for Lu; at one point, he stands in front of the mirror in the police bathroom and shouts, "I'm from Shanghai!" in a futile attempt to affirm his identity.

There's no denying that the film's mixed-ethnic jokes are sometimes as unappetizing as Mrs. Weiss's soup of matzo balls and soy sauce. But when Wang drops the shtick for satire, The Laserman is maliciously on target. It's that rare comedy with a brain and a heart. Pitting his protean wit against hypocrisy, Wang is wrestling with urgent matters of honor and principle. Next time, Wang might be even more illuminating if he wrestles more and tries less strenuously to please.

prev
Movie Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Hungry Like the Wolf”

    Duran Duran | 1982

    This indulgent New Romantic group generated their first U.S. hit with the help of what was at the time new technology. "Simon [Le Bon] and I, I think, had been out the night before and had this terrible hangover," said keyboardist Nick Rhodes. "For some reason we were feeling guilty about it and decided to go and do some work." Rhodes started playing with his Jupiter-8 synth, and then "Simon had an idea for a lyric, and by lunchtime when everyone else turned up, we pretty much had the song." The Simmons drumbeat was equally important to the sound of "Hungry Like the Wolf," as Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor stated it "kind of defined the drum sound for the Eighties."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com