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Sweet Revenge

     

(left) Fan Bing-Bing, and (right) Anthony Wong and Nick Cheung in Sweet Revenge.

Chinese: 寄生人  
Year: 2007  
Director: Ho Ping
Producer: Tony Leung Hung-Wah
Writer: Ho Ping, Tony Leung Hung-Wah
Cast: Nick Cheung Ka-Fai, Fan Bing-Bing, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Li Tong
The Skinny: An intriguing mystery lacking suspense or a convincing narrative. The actors have all done better work, and so has the director, who once won a Golden Horse Award. However, that was a long time ago.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Cheung Yung (Fan Bing-Bing) has problems, though at first glance you would never know how deep they run. Sure, she's got a chronic illness that requires constant meds and even injections, and sure, her job at a courier/parcel service is a rather thankless one. But she also has a loving older brother, Cheung Siu-Chun (Nick Cheung), who dotes on her, taking care of her medicine needs and even going so far as to buy her a new flat. She also has a burgeoning romance with drunken antique shop owner Shing (Anthony Wong), who she hooks up with in practically two seconds flat. She's also incredibly alluring - as one would expect from someone who looks like Fan Bing-Bing - and so much so that one wonders why she would hook up with a morose dude that looks like Anthony Wong. Other than her health issues and selection in men, life seems generally ok for Yung.

However, Yung has a major issue: back when she was a kid, her parents were killed in a robbery/arson of their family home. At the time, Siu-Chun was absent, only reappearing years later to take care of his sister. Now an insurance agent, Siu-Chun is a caring, though somewhat shady individual, who will actually screw over his employers in order to help the needy Robin Hood-style. He also has problems with his memory, and can't remember much before the loss of his parents. Yung is puzzled by her brother's inability to remember their childhood, but since he cares for her so completely, you'd think she's forgive his odd behaviors, right? Wrong. When she finds an antique camera among Shing's belongings that used to belong to her deceased father, it opens up a can of rotten worms that threatens to destroy her usual, if not cherished way of life. A couple of easy possibilities: maybe Shing, or even Siu-Chun were involved in her parents' death. The confusing answer: maybe the whole thing is a psychoanalysis nightmare involving twisted mistaken identity setups, grainy flashbacks, and over-the-top acting from Nick Cheung. Which of the above is really going on in Sweet Revenge?

We'll answer that question: all the above is happening in Sweet Revenge, and it's not really a spoiler because if anything other than some twist-filled pseudo-psychotic thriller were in the offing, then this would be one boring movie. Sweet Revenge starts out flat-footed and remains there for a good half-hour. The introduction to both Yung and Siu-Chun could put a Red Bull-drinking squirrel to sleep, as it's slow, opaque, and given to seemingly unrelated detail. However, the writers (director Ho Ping and producer Tony Leung Hung-Wah) actually seem to be following a screenwriting manual; the minor details all return to play a part in the film's many revelations. I frequently complain that Hong Kong needs better screenwriters. Sweet Revenge at least attempts actual screenwriting with its foray into intriguing psychobabble. The film also gets pseudo clever, attaching supposed meaning to minute details - a technique that might seem more successful if the film were directed with more panache or pacing.

Unfortunately, Sweet Revenge isn't a very diverting or seductive film, opting for harsh, claustrophobic cinematography and continuity-breaking camerawork that make the film a rather unattractive experience. Furthering that is the narrative, which is flat-footed and fails at making its characters resonate with the audience. Anthony Wong is almost always worth watching, but his appearance here is minor and rather subdued. Fan Bing-Bing is very photogenic, and possesses the leading lady quality of a younger Rosamund Kwan. However, like Kwan at a similar age, Fan's acting has consistently been upstaged by her looks. That leaves Nick Cheung, who once again shows that he can handle dark characters with admirable facility. What Cheung can't do is make them very charismatic, and his overacting can occasionally be alarming. Case in point: the film's key plot reveal, which features Nick Cheung at his most obviously hammy. Were this a Wong Jing production, there would be yuks all around - but since this isn't, a disturbed guffaw may be all his performance elicits.

Director Ho Ping once won a Golden Horse Award, though Sweet Revenge seems less influenced by Ho and more by the film's producer, Tony Leung Hung-Wah, who has been responsible for more than his share of undeserving cinema. Perhaps there wasn't enough money or time to polish this film properly; the production gives off an unfortunately cheap vibe that the film never transcends. Still, the one thing that Sweet Revenge does do admirably is attempt a layered thriller. After about an hour, the film does generate enough questions that one might feel inclined to finish the rest of the film just to get the expected answers. Unfortunately, those answers may not be enough to make the film worthwhile, as they're really not that shocking or unexpected. Nothing especially affecting occurs when the answers are divulged, because the film doesn't build up the proper tension to leave the audience wanting. The story generates curiosity, but once it's all over the film doesn't feel as if it was worth the effort spent to watch it. That's a shame because the filmmakers really seemed to be trying when they whipped up Sweet Revenge. However, they didn't completely succeed. (Kozo 2007)

 
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam & Ronson
Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

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