ULTERIOR MOTIVE (2015) review

20150917085739210

Ulterior Motive is Arthur Wong’s first film as a director in 28 years ; his last directorial effort had been the enjoyable, hard-hitting In The Line of Duty  3 in 1987. Not that he has been slacking off in the meantime : Wong is one of Hong Kong and China’s most illustrious cinematographers, having lensed everything from The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Once Upon A Time In China to The Warlords and Painted Skin. We encourage you to have a look at his filmography, it’s a head-spinning list of some of the most gorgeously-shot films in Hong Kong and China. For his return to the director’s chair, he has chosen a noirish thriller about a rich heiress (Qin Lan), whose husband (Archie Kao) and daughter are kidnapped and held for ransom. The cop in charge of the investigation is her ex-boyfriend (Gordon Lam), an acutely intuitive sleuth who quickly targets her father (Simon Yam) as a prime suspect, after finding out troubling similarities between this kidnapping case and one he was involved in 20 years ago, that ended in murder.

(more…)

Advertisements

AN INSPECTOR CALLS (2015) review

an_inspector_calls

Considered a true classic of 20th-century English theatre, J.B. Priestley’s three-act play An Inspector Calls has been brought to the stage countless times since it was first performed in 1945, and it’s been a fixture of the BBC’s TV and radio programming (with yet another mini-series in preparation for 2015, starring David Thewlis) but it has comparatively been the object of few big screen adaptations. In fact, Raymond Wong and Herman Yau’s film is the first time the play is adapted for theatrical release since Guy Hamilton’s (of Goldfinger fame) 1954 adaptation. And surely it’s the most unexpected iteration of the story since the 1979 Soviet mini-series Inspector Gull. Screenwriter Edmond Wong transposes the setting from the North Midlands of Great Britain in 1912 to Hong Kong in 2015, but follows J.B. Priestley’s narrative pretty closely : the mysterious inspector Karl (Louis Koo) pays an unexpected visit to the rich Kau family’s estate. Mr. and Mrs. Kau (Eric Tsang and Teresa Mo) are in the final preparations for their daughter Sherry’s (Karena Ng) engagement party as she is soon to marry a handsome young businessman Johnny (Hans Zhang), while their son Tim (Gordon Lam) looks on in contemptuous bemusement, and clearly annoyed at his own girlfriend, socialite Yvonne (Ada Liu Yan). Inspector Karl informs them that a young woman (Chrissie Chau) from Mr. Kau’s factory has been found dead from what appears to be a painful, protracted suicide by disinfectant ingestion. As he starts to interrogate each member of the family in turn, it appears everyone of them was linked to the deceased woman, and everyone may have played a more or less active role in her eventual demise.

(more…)

Z STORM (2014) short review

z-storm.31294

A tale of greed, corruption, and wire-tapping in the Overheard mould but with only a fraction of the star-power and production values,  Z Storm follows an ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) team that has less than a week to expose the wide network of corruption surrounding the forthcoming IPO of the Z Hedge Fund, a US operation in which the government has invested 15 billion dollars. Director David Lam made the unwise choice to combine over-complicated (to the uninitiated at least) financial jargon and palaver with a fairly simplistic narrative and a self-righteous tone that borders on parody and/or propaganda. All ICAC agents are portrayed as knights in shining armors (or rather, in tailored suits) with some lines sounding more like slogans than something anyone would naturally say : other reviews have rightly singled out “Where’s there’s corruption, there’s the ICAC too”, but we also like the impressed “You have outstanding men at your service”, that a cameo-ing Alfred Cheung intones to the head of the ICAC. Nevertheless Z Storm is never boring, and while Louis Koo sleepwalks handsomely throughout the film, Lam Ka Tung and Michael Wong as a corrupt cop and a corrupt lawyer respectively, both cut strikingly despicable figures, and provide the film with some life and sparkle. **