Expect the Unexpected
Reviewed by YTSL
The first time I checked out this 1998 Milkyway
Image production, I found it to be an acceptable but not all that majorly
impressive piece of work. Having had the good fortune to re-view
this Johnnie To-produced and Patrick Yau-directed film on a big screen
a week ago, here’s reporting there being a positive change in the way I
think and feel about it. Although this was not totally unexpected,
given my generally favorable reactions to movies with which this effort’s
principal actors (E.g., Lau Ching Wan, Simon Yam, Ruby Wong) as well as
auteur Johnnie To have been involved, it still was somewhat revelatory
to realize that that whose title announces its intent and capacity to shock
can provide one with a moving viewing experience even after one knows what
surprises are in store for its audience.
Indeed, I’d go as far as to suggest that this
film -- and its dark yet arguably affirmative “seize the moment” message
-- might be best appreciated after one has had time to reflect on, not
just be emotionally and visually assailed by, the incidents that emphasize
that one really ought to EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED (in life as well as this
offering). This is not to say that it is a work that does not reveal
any charms (which is by no means restricted to that supplied by the luminescent
Yoyo Mung’s presence in the picture) when one first encounters it.
Rather, my strong sense is that this very well-acted ensemble piece --
which memorably depicts the regular lives and often trivial preoccupations
of a tight special police unit (whose members include those portrayed by
Simon Yam, Lau Ching Wan, Ruby Wong, Hui Siu-hung and Raymond Wong) as
well as their crime-fighting efforts against two gangs of criminals --
is more meaningful layers and has greater depth than your average crime
Somewhat relatedly, one of the bigger surprises
for some viewers of EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED might well be how talk filled
it is: I.e., not only is the audience made privy to such as the interrogation
of a captured bumbler of an attempted bank robber (who is simultaneously
amusingly and touchingly played by Lam Suet) but they are also treated
to quite a few relational ruminations by pretty much all of the crimebusters.
In fact, at least two of the movie’s major subplots involve the attempted
figuring out by colleagues of who are the real objects of affection of
particular individuals. Additionally, even the previously-mentioned
cross-examination inside of a police station ends up with the criminal
talking lovingly about his family, who remain in a particularly poverty-stricken
part of Mainland China while he ventured far afield to try to come by money
to adequately feed them.
Still, it is not as if EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED lacks
rather intense and real-looking gun battles, car chases and other action
sequences. Neither is it without some wonderful moments in which
actions are shown to definitely speak louder than words (I think particularly
of the scenes in which: Ruby Wong puts grapes into Raymond Wong’s
mouth at varying speeds; and Lau Ching Wan and Simon Yam take turns to
try to batter down the door of an individual who their characters obviously
care quite a bit for). Also, although some might find them overly
sappy, I will admit to liking those sections of the film which bathe Yoyo
Mung with a warm glow and herald her presence with the onslaught of synthesized
musical vibes (before sometimes segueing into conversation and interaction
but other times not even that).
All in all then, my revised verdict is this is
one technically proficient and materially interesting work that is largely
appealing and more thought-provoking -- and, because it succeeds in making
you care about its main characters, ultimately gut-wrenching -- than it
might initially seem. It must be emphasized though that EXPECT THE
UNEXPECTED not only improves upon a second viewing but also really benefits
from having easy-to-read subtitles (something which its VHS and VCD versions
apparently lack). As such, it might have to be one of those movies
which one ought to only -- unfortunately, if you don’t have the opportunity
to do either -- view on DVD or a big screen.
My rating for the film: 8.
Distributed by Universe
The transfer is generally good - certainly
better than the above picts indicate.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
Subtitles: Chinese, English, Nil
It includes only it's own trailer.
The sub-titles are easy to read as they fall
in the black box below the picture.
There are lots of extras on this DVD - amazing
for a HK DVD:
Star Files - Lau Ching-wan, Simon Yam, Yo Yo
Mung, Johnnie To, Patrick Yau.
Some very short interviews with Yo Yo, Ruby,
Raymond and Johnnie To - but though the questions are in English the responses
are not sub-titled.
A segment showing outtakes - but I would not
watch it until after viewing the film as it has spoilers within - as does
A five minute showing of the premiere with
conversations with Lau, Raymond and Simon.