Evoking the name of Alfred Hitchcock is perhaps
unfair – few suspense films can come within shouting distance of the Master’s
finest work – but while watching “Murder” it was impossible not to think
of him. Similar to Hitchcock, this film is wonderfully paced, cleverly
scripted, beautifully filmed, contains some sterling camera movement, stunning
décor, a touch of black humor and it keeps you wondering till the
final shot. Hong Kong is not particularly well known for it's suspense
films – the writing generally tends to be too unfocused, hurried and genre
switching – but director Lawrence Cheng keeps this film moving straight
ahead from beginning to end without a misstep or a whimsical detour.
The film is filled with a deliciously nasty group
of individuals. Do Do Cheng and Damian Lau are in name a married couple,
but in reality they come closer to two rattlesnakes living together – and
trying to avoid the other one’s deadly sting. Do Do is a completely immoral
lawyer without an emotional sentiment in her briefcase, while Damian is
a greedy money launderer for the triads. If they didn’t hate each other
so much, they would almost be perfect for one another.
Do Do takes on a nurse, Deannie Yip, as a client
who is being accused of negligence by a doctor – who in fact ordered her
to give the shot to a now comatose patient. Do Do illegally fixes the case
for the doctor (and receives a nice check) and Deannie is fired from her
job and has to pay huge compensation to the family of the patient. Damian
has taken on HK$10 million from a particularly dangerous triad head from
Thailand to clean through the system.
He comes home one evening to discover that Do
Do has found the money and won’t give it to him. In a rage he shoots her
in the head – and thinking her dead – fixes the blame on someone else.
In fact Do Do isn’t dead – but the head wound has left her without her
memory, in a state of confusion and most oddly it seems to have drained
her of all her hateful venom.
The hospital hires a temporary nurse to take care
of Do Do – and in a classic shot – the nurse leans into the camera view
over a sleeping Do Do and says with sarcastic bitterness “Hello, aren’t
you dead?” It’s of course Deannie Yip – who does her best to make life
hell for Do Do. It's hard to know where to place your sympathies - Do Do
so richly derserves it, but she is not the same person anymore. So Damian
has a few issues to deal with – a wife he tried to kill and whose memory
is slowly returning in bits and pieces, a missing $10MM that he can't find,
some restless triads, a frightened partner (Lawrence Cheng) and a cop (Wong
Kam-kong) who is very suspicious. It makes for a delightful narrative.
As good as the production is – this is a film
that needs great acting performances to pull it off – and it gets them.
Do Do is simply brilliant – going from as nasty a creature as one can imagine
(from her make-up, to her posture, to her clothes - it is perfect) to her
new persona, Damian is authoritative, cold, charming when he has to be
and very believable - but the highest accolades have to go to Deannie.
She steals every scene she is in with as good and personable a performance
as you will see – funny at times, touching at times and scary at times.
This is a terrific film in every way.
In checking Cheng's other directorial work,
I am surprised to see only three other films listed - Never Ending Summer,
She Starts Fires and He and She. Considering what a sure hand he shows
here, that is a real shame.
My rating for this film: 8.0
Distributed by Mega Star/Media Asia
The transfer is stunning - rich colors
and very clean and sharp.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
Subtitles: Chinese , English, Nil.
It includes it's own trailer and ones for The
Big Heat, A Fishy Story (one of my favorite trailers) and Soldier of Fortune.The
sub-titles are easy to read.