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Silk


Chang Chen investigates a body in Silk.
Chinese: 詭絲  
Year: 2006  
Director: Su Chao-Bin  
Writer: Su Chao-Bin  
Action: Stephen Tung Wai  
  Cast: Chang Chen, Yosuke Eguchi, Karena Lam Ka-Yan, Barbie Hsu, Wilson Chen, Janine Chang, Chen Kuan-Po, Wan Fang, Arthur Wong Ngok-Tai
  The Skinny: The intriguing story and a charismatic lead performance from Chang Chen make Silk a different and worthwhile genre movie. Director Su Chao-Bin's film is a bit underdeveloped, and those seeking the latest in Asian horror may be put off at just how non-frightening the film is. Still, for a commercial thriller, Silk does the job.
   
Review
by Kozo:

If seeing ghosts is getting passé, how about being a ghost? The Taiwanese ghost thriller Silk takes the usual Asian horror iconography and spins a pseudoscientific thriller that's part theory, part hogwash, and mostly entertaining. Usual art-house favorite Chang Chen stars as Tung, a Taiwanese sniper who's called in for a special assignment. The Japanese government would like Tung to work for Hashimoto (Yosuke Eguchi), a crippled scientist who has made massive advances with the Menger Sponge, a mathematically subdivided cube that acts as an energy black hole. Hashimoto's large-scale Menger Sponge can defy gravity, and may even allow a person to walk on walls.

However, the application that Hashimoto is most interested in is utilizing the energy-warping ways of the Menger Sponge to see other types of energy, namely spectral energy, e.g. ghosts. Hashimoto and his crew (including Wilson Chen and F4 accessory Barbie Hsu) have managed to trap a ghost child (Chen Kuan-Po) in a Menger Sponge-lined room, but they need help investigating the child's activities. They want to know where he's going, what he's doing, and indeed, what he wants. Thanks to an application of Menger Sponge-enhanced spray on their eyes, Hashimoto's crew can see the ghost, but they can't hear what he's saying.

But Tung can, because he's a lip reader, ace sniper, and all-around badass. Actor Chang Chen usually appears in art house fare, and is probably best known to international audiences as Zhang Ziyi's roguish lover in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Never before has Chang tried a leading role in such an obviously commercial film as Silk, and he attacks the unusual role with a fierce, underplayed intensity that's riveting. Tung is a dedicated cop, but he's also a bit of a sourpuss, not only to Hashimoto and his colleagues, but also to his girlfriend Wei (an underused, but still very effective Karena Lam), who sticks by him even though he's chronically unhappy.

After initially saying "no" to helping out Hashimoto, Tung eventually agrees, and proceeds to shadow the ghost child on his daily routine. During the process, Tung and Hashimoto discover the child's origins, plus get mixed up in some unforeseen circumstances, including betrayal (one of the team attempts to steal the ghost), crappy politics (the Japanese government has had it with Hashimoto's quack scientist ways), and also "the silk", a mysterious spectral thread that connects ghosts to humans. Tung discovers that following the thread may prove the key to the investigation, but Hashimoto wants to know more than where the ghost is from. What he's really after is how ghosts come into existence in the first place - and even how to replicate the process.

Writer-director Su Chao-Bin also wrote the 2002 film Double Vision, which was notable for its intriguing if not fully-developed screenplay. Silk echoes Double Vision in that it tries to provide explanations for its supernatural happenings, and goes a long way in providing intelligent-seeming, though totally bogus science to back up its supernatural shenanigans. A lot of the pseudoscience works, but many of the leaps of logic involving how to become a ghost seem to be deduced by random guesswork rather than actual discovery. Some of the scientific details are also a bit funny. It's silly enough that liquefied Menger Sponge spray can help you see ghosts, but spraying some on your bullets can actually turn your gun into a handy ghost-busting tool! Tung gets to do this on more than one occasion, though the ultimate fact is that not even Menger Sponge bullets can stop a pissed off ghost. It just makes them angry, and pretty much guarantees that they'll come after you next.

The ghosts in Silk may be treated scientifically, but they're still prone to attacking people and squeezing the life out of them. The ghosts also move in nonsensically creepy ways and look just like ghosts you'd see in The Eye. These details earmark Silk as just another Asian horror entry, but the film has different aims. Silk is more X-Files than Ju-On, and attempts to hook with a supernatural narrative and haunted lead characters. The combo works, as the narrative does prove involving, but it's also a bit underdeveloped. Some characters, including Barbie Hsu's dour scientist, and even the charismatic, but kind of wonky Hashimoto aren't fully fleshed out. At a certain point in the film, things stop getting explained - and in a movie where explanations are everything, lack of disclosure can be downright alienating. A lot of theorizing goes on as to how ghosts are created, and eventually, the answer is assumed to be discovered. But is it? Or are the characters wrong? And does it really matter when Tung is engaged in a hair-raising car chase with a pissed off ghost trying to squeeze the life out of his heart?

Probably not. If anything, the appearance of car chases pretty much tells you that Silk is one overstuffed film. It tries to be a ghost film, a supernatural thriller, a character drama, and even a pulse-pounding action flick, complete with a familar-sounding score from Peter Kam (Purple Storm, Tokyo Raiders). There's also some unexpected humor, and even some effective heartbreak involving Tung's relationship with his comatose mother. It's all a bit much, but Silk manages to string things together thanks to an involving storyline, well-developed tension, ace production values, and Chang Chen's charismatic central performance. Chang has always been an actor to watch, and Silk is worth seeing if only see this veteran of Wong Kar-Wai and Hou Hsiao-Hsien films stalk all over Taiwan shooting ghosts with Menger Sponge-enhanced bullets. Yeah, it all sounds a bit silly, but this is clearly a commercial film intended for international appeal, and it achieves its aims in an efficient and entertaining manner. It's not scary, nor is it really that conclusive, but hey, it's also not bad. (Kozo 2006)

   
Notes: • The Menger Sponge is real, and can easily be found here at Wikipedia. However, true Menger Sponges will not allow you to walk on walls or capture ghosts. They're still quite cool, though.
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Deltamac
2-DVD Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
Making of, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Extra Bonus, Trailer, Photo Gallery
 

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