Reviewed by YTSL
In 2001, a sensational murder case -- one of
whose more salacious details involved a human skull getting stuffed inside
of the head of a Hello Kitty doll -- quickly spawned a couple of “true
crime” dramas (One of which has “Human Pork Chop” as its stomach-churning
title and the other of which announces that “There is a Secret in My Soup”).
Lest anyone forget, this double film adaptation was not an unprecedented
action by Hong Kong movie makers. Instead, eight years earlier, a
gruesome murder that culminated in the dismembering plus acid bathing of
the female victim -- and, in one cinematic instance, was preceded by the
cooking and consumption of the soon dead person’s pet pooch -- had also
been captured onto celluloid by two local production companies.
The Clarence Fok directed “Remains of a Woman”
that was the second of the pair of well acted works to make it into local
cinemas in 1993 got a better critical reception than the Cha Chuen Yee
helmed plus co-produced offering that had been released four months before
it. This appears to have been due in large part to the at times very
difficult to watch movie -- which I actually saw some years back but find
hard to forget -- boasting a lead actress in the incredible Carrie Ng.
After having finally viewed the Mandarin Films production that preceded
that which boasts a Golden Horse Best Actress award winning performance
by Ms. Ng as the kind of misguided woman whose actions many more fortunate
people don’t want to as well as just plain don’t understand though, here’s
documenting my regret at neglecting to check out the more commercially
successful plus conservatively rendered -- but still quite appropriately
disturbing -- LEGAL INNOCENCE for as long as I did.
This is especially so because I reckon that back
to back viewings of these two similarly themed offerings would have yielded
much food for thought as well as a surely interesting plus illuminating
study in contrast. For one thing, the pair of deliberately unsettling
films that bear the contrasting Chinese titles that translate into English
as “A Heart Like Iron” (for that whose given English title is the more
graphic “Remains of a Woman”) and “The Strange Case of the Dissolved Corpse”
(whose way less colorful English title is that of LEGAL INNOCENCE) do not
just differ stylistically. Rather, they appear to offer up divergent
interpretations as well as conflicting depictions of the personalities
involved in what amounts to a couple of love triangles along with the events
that led to the murder of one of the three females who are shown to have
fallen for the strangely bewitching man portrayed by James Pak in the later
production and more strongly by Francis Ng in the earlier one.
Furthermore (and while continuing to work on the
assumption that my memory does serve me right about both movies), the two
deservedly Category III rated efforts could be said to have a different
focus. More specifically, the brains behind the by far more memorable
visuals filled “Remains of a Woman” looked to have concentrated mainly
on the events that led up to the committing of a heinous crime. Alternatively,
the makers of the at times unfortunately eye-rollingly melodramatic (yet
also more rationally constructed) LEGAL INNOCENCE looked to have been intent
on covering the often quite puzzling developments that led to the dramatic
re-trial -- or was it “merely” an appeal? -- of the accused murderers plus
certain events that took place after that along with those occurrences
that had led to the arrest of the lover and a romantic rival of the ill
fated Brenda Wong (who was played by a breasts baring Ho Yan).
On a character and cast note: What this means
is that whereas the main female character in “Remains of a Woman” was the
real perennial loser in the pretty warped game of love (who continued to
love nonetheless), the one in the limelight in LEGAL INNOCENCE is actually
the Christian woman (essayed by the reliably competent Cecilia Yip) who
ended up marrying the conniving man she first saw as a prison inmate and
knew was so sickeningly adored by the troubled soul (played in this work
by Ivy Leung) that she had initially sought to save. Additionally,
this allows for the inclusion in the Lam Kee-To, Rico Chung and Chung Oi
Fong co-scripted film of a police detective character (portrayed by Anthony
Wong) who functions as both the dogged questioner of why this work’s other
characters would act in the way that they did but also a provider of (possible)
answers to related plus no less intriguing queries.
All in all, the generally engrossing LEGAL INNOCENCE
looks to have a larger cast of characters than “Remains of a Woman”.
To wit: Other individuals who have salient parts to play in its story --
even if theirs are obviously smaller roles than Cecilia Yip’s Shirley Cheung
and Francis Ng’s Patrick Wong characters -- include the Christian social
worker’s married boss and sometime lover, the lawyers who are played by
the likes of Paul Chun Pui and Hui Siu Hung, a five men and two women jury,
and the boy whose curiosity got the better of him when he entered a creepy
apartment in search of a ball (and ended up making the kind of discovery
that should furnish anyone with a life-time’s supply of nightmares).
My rating for this film: 6.5
Note - the end Chinese subtitles are
"By law of Hong Kong, anyone who succeeded
in appeal can't be sued by the same reason again, unless the person admits
the guilt, and... has enough evidence to prove he committed the crime."
Thanks to Jane for the translation.