Slow Fade

This first effort from director Daniel Chan shows a great deal of promise. He clearly has a handle on the technical and artistic aspects of filmmaking and fills the frame with real visual flair. Something interesting – odd camera angles, distortion, speeding up, figures bathed in strange hues – makes the film seem more intriguing than it really is. The film definitely has an arty/indie feel to it that looks to be much more influenced by US Indies than HK films. The film is kind of compelling and yet also distant. The problem is that Chan seems so intent on showing us every film technique and trick in the book (as talented first time directors are wont to do) that he creates a bit of a barrier between the viewer and the characters. One feels distanced from the story – and for all the snazzy filmmaking – in the end it is ultimately a disappointing experience. Though you can admire what the director is doing, I never connected with the characters and their lives at all - and felt very little emotion at the end.
Ken Wong and Josie Ho
There are some excellent performances though - from Roy Cheung - doing his bad guy again, but in a wonderfully dapper and evil way, Akira Koieyama as a Japanese hitman and Josie Ho as a hostess girl with the proverbial heart of gold. The problem is though that these were supporting roles - and the main character played by Ken Wong was such an irritating loser that you wanted him to step in front of a moving car.
The title refers to the slow fade of Wong’s world  - his dreams, his hopes, his life. The film begins with some dazzling shots of Hong Kong at night and then a sense of speeding through the dark,curving, silent streets. This though is seemingly a metaphor for the drug high that Wong is in the middle of – and it turns out to be a near lethal overdose. He ends up in a hospital where he meets another patient – Josie Ho – and through flashbacks his life story spills out in drips and drabs. With a seemingly good future and a loving wife (Sara Au), he begins a series of mis-steps that sends his life into a tailspin. He first allows a friend (Jimmy Wong) to talk him into joining a criminal group – but when their activities escalate into murder, he wants to get out. There is no getting out of course – until he becomes a drug addict and disappears down the dark hole of that world.
Sarah Au, Ken Wong, Jimmy Wong
He then tries to get his life together – decides he loves Josie – a hostess in a nightclub – and so goes to her boss, Roy Cheung, and asks for him to release her from her duties. Sure, Cheung says – but first I need a little favor – smuggle some drugs into Macau for me – and we are even. A number of dead bodies and double crosses later and Wong’s life looks headed for a fast fade.
Roy Cheung, Wong and Akira Koieyama
The pieces are in place for an involving film – but it never clicks. You just don’t care enough about what happens to Wong  - whether he finds redemption in the arms of Josie Ho or not. Chan has the film bouncing around so much that no emotional cord is created. Still this is a well made film – lots of creative ideas taking place – and is another good indication that HK films are far from dead – and willing to explore new avenues. This film apparently was shown at a number of festivals around the world – Berlin, Cannes and New York to mention a few.

My rating for this film: 6.5