Capsule Catch Up – Murderer, Night Fall, 23:59

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I got a little tied up with a few things over the last couple of weeks, although I was able to do my “War of Arrows” crossover, so there have been a few movies I have caught that have not gotten my attention.  As they are pretty awful and minor affairs, I will just do a little set of Capsules.

Murderer

The next couple of films have a common link as they are both directed by Chow Hin Yeung Roy, who was Ang Lee’s assistant on “Lust, Caution”.  And when I say Assistant, I don’t mean Assistant Director.  Make of that what you will, but in the case of this film, I was fully aware it has been totally vilified by critics.  But, I am a fan of the star, and sometimes I might get something out of a film that others do not, so being a masochistic sort, I thought I would give it a go.

Detective Ling (Aaron Kwok) is discovered at a crime scene, with his colleague close to death and suffering a nasty knock to the head which has left him an amnesiac (he has no memories for the last few weeks).  He finds out he has been investigating a rather nasty serial killer, whose modus operandi is exsanguinations via power drill.  He is keen to get back on the case, but becomes somewhat perturbed when he realises all the evidence actually points to him being the killer.  As his professional and personal life begin to collapse, just how far will he descend into madness.

OK, this is a very attractive movie, with lots of cinematographic tricks to maintain the interest.  Kwok is pretty good as a man on the edge (by all accounts he went a bit method and went sleep derived for 3 days to really get into character).  The initial thrust of the story is interesting.

But then after an hour it seriously goes to hell.  Not only is the identity of the mastermind just gut-wrenchingly bad (spoilers, but if you have seen “Orphan” you know what to expect), but it is just executed so badly.  The guilty party just wanders up, explains what is going on in an interminably long speech, and then the last half of the film is seriously downhill from there.  When John Doe turned up in “Se7en”, the point was he was just a nobody that no-one would have ever discovered.  In this film, there are so many things that are wrong with the investigation, it beggars belief.  I know the Hong Kong Police Department get a hard time in cinema, but things like basic fact checking, DNA analysis, logic, suspensions, Police Work – well they are all thrown out of the window.

This is the most misconceived thriller I have seen for a long long time.  Avoid.

Night Fall

So after that disaster, how does Chow Hin Yeung Roy next effort stand up? A little better thankfully, though that is not exactly hard!

Nick Cheung is the mute Wong, who has recently been released from prison for the murder of his Girlfriend (Janice Man).  However, he starts taking an unhealthy interest in her Younger sister (also Janice Man).  When her abusive father (Michael Wong) turns up dead, all the evidence points to him – but is maybe the evidence just a little too conclusive?  That’s the task of weary Detective George Lam (Simon Yam), who is battling some demons of his own. He has an inability to connect with his own daughter, he is haunted by his wife’s suicide, and is totally oblivious to the romantic intentions of his Partner (Kay Tse).

The film is not with out its charms.  It is beautifully shot, and Nick Cheung adds yet another strange psycho to his CV.  Everyone one else puts in a reasonable performance, except Michael Wong, who gives the same overacting nonsense that is his way (and I suppose his charm).  There is an excellent scene in a Cable Car, that despite making little sense is well worth the price of admission.

But it suffers in two broad ways.  Firstly, the “twist” is not only rather obvious, but it is a staple of these kinds of films.  If you have seen any kind of thriller where the killer is just so obvious, you know that something is up, and moreover, you will know exactly what is going on.

More worryingly is just the abject way the crime is investigated.  Clues are found and discussed, but never really investigated.  Yam’s detective seems to just hang around waiting for divine inspiration to hit him.  And for the second film running, the record keeping of whatever organisation is responsible for adoption in Hong Kong leaves much to be desired.  And that is just the big things – whilst it is not made totally clear that Wong is mute to a fair bit into the film, the Police insist on attempting to interview him and get a confession from him, that he is not physically capable of giving!  And then when we get the final answer to what has been going on (even though it is painfully obvious), it is done via a post-humus text message.  In this kind of film, I think results should be earned, not just supplied via exposition.

It also simply fails to do with the interesting back story of Yam’s character, which could have given some drama and some points of reflection, but absolutely nothing is done wit hit al all.

So, it is far better than “Murderer”, but so flawed in execution that I can’t give it much more than a Recommendation for the curious, and it is certainly not essential.

23:59

A strange little Singaporean horror, set within an Army Camp populated by young men doing their national service.  I think the story is about the haunting of one of the conscripts, who eventually ends up dead.  The problem is that the film tries to pack in a bunch of “round the campfire” horror vignettes into the early part of the film, which make for a very confusing watch.  In fact, the main thrust of the story happens so late in the film, and is tied up so quickly, you almost miss it.  There are some nice visuals, and the Sergeant character (Mark Lee) is very watchable. 

The shame is that there are some nice ideas here, but the film makers don’t seem to know what to concentrate on.  Not only that, but it fails to make any kind of real use of the Army scenario – other than have it as an environment where a mostly male cast can sit around and shout at each other.

But it is so uneven, unwieldy and incoherent that I have to give this an Avoid (although more because you should just not bother rather than it being horrible).

Coming up next?  I really do not know.  There is nothing on my to watch pile that inspires.  So if anyone has any ideas please let me know!

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