A WITNESS OUT OF THE BLUE (2019) review

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In Fung Chih Chiang’s A Witness out of the Blue, Louis Koo (now in his sixth film released this year) plays Sean Wong, a career criminal on the run after a jewellery store robbery that left several people dead. Inspector Yip (Philip Keung), whose undercover agent was killed on that day, is especially dogged in his pursuit of Wong, but the case becomes more complicated when the latter’s accomplices start being killed one by one. The only witness of the first murder is a parrot, a clever animal which inspector Lam (Louis Cheung) believes can help him find the killer. Quickly, it becomes doubtful that Wong is the one killing his accomplices; instead, suspicion falls on some of the customers present on the day of the robbery, whose life was forever altered by it: a butcher whose mother died on that day (Patrick Tam), and a security guard (Andy On) whose girlfriend (Fiona Sit) was crippled. But Lam also suspects Yip himself, believing his thirst for vengeance to have gotten the better of him.

Produced by Derek Yee, this is a minor but very solid little thriller, that deftly plays on more than one register: elements of a classic Hong Kong thriller are of course present, with an engaging investigation peppered with grounded, low-key action by Jack Wong, but there’s quite a bit of bracingly matter-of-fact quirkiness in the role a talking parrot plays in the proceedings (it never goes into full silliness but the relationship between the parrot and Louis Cheung’s smart but bumbling detective is delightfully offbeat), a reasonably surprising, Agatha Christie-style ending, a dash of creepiness (Sean Wong is haunted by the voices of his dead accomplices, and plagued with visions of ants), and some flashes of actual poignancy. The latter are mostly due to Louis Koo, whose performance is enigmatic without being wooden, and quietly affecting, especially in his interactions with his charmingly nosy, visually impaired landlady, a beautiful turn by the all too rare – on the big screen at least – Jessica Hester Hsuan.

Long Story Short: A minor delight, A Witness out of the Blue juggles genres with low-key skill, and benefits from another intense and poignant performance by Louis Koo. ***1/2

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