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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Accident (2009)

Hong Kong cinema has always been blessed with master craftsmen when it come to action, yet the pool started to run dry towards the millennium as the industry moved towards more audience friendly material and teen action films. However, there has been resurgence in violent Hong Kong films in the wake of Infernal Affairs and director Soi Cheang is the man responsible for one of modern Hong Kongs finest pieces of CAT III mayhem; Dog Bite Dog. It’s the no-holds barred shot of nihilism that hadn’t been seen since the late 80’s / early 90’s efforts but with the maturity and intelligence of modern Hong Kong films inspired by the success of Infernal Affairs. Needless to say it made him a man worth keeping an eye on.

His latest effort, Accident, couldn’t be more removed from the explosive violence seen in his career launcher but it’s an interesting change of direction for the talented director.  A group of professional assassins, lead by The Brain (Lois Koo), specialise in making their hits appear as accidents. When a job goes awry, he starts to question those around him and believing his identity has been compromised he sets out to find who set him up.
Accident is a pleasant surprise, a refreshing and excellently execute thriller that relies more on its overall story than just providing us with some thrilling set-pieces. Under Johnnie To’s production Soi Cheang has created a lean, tense and surprisingly powerful slice of Hong Kong cinema. The ‘accidents’ are elaborate and effective; imagine if you can Final Destination directed by Dante Lam and you’re on the right track. The first half of the film contains two thrilling set-pieces that really impress and leave you gripped as to where the film will take you, and that’s the films biggest plus-point; it’s unpredictable.

The second half resolves around The Brain’s obsession with finding out who set him up, it’s an all engulfing desire that eats him up and we see the once methodical assassin become sloppy as he descends deeper into his obsession. This half is slower than the first, but the tension is built beautifully and leads to a powerful and shattering finale. The film does require some suspension of belief during the finale, but I bought right into it and it proved to be a fantastic addition to an already overly impressive feature.

Louis Koo also left a positive impression on me, he shows a great deal of maturity as an actor here and as he’s in almost every frame of the film it’s integral that he got it right; and he does. The Brain is damaged goods, but Koo shows us the sensitive side to this cold-hearted man that gains our sympathy. We care for him, and we get caught up in his hunt for the truth, and this is the films greatest trick; making us believe what he believes and having us side with him and sweeping us up in his obsession.

Soi Cheang and Johnnie To have crafted a wickedly fresh little thriller here that shows the Hong Kong cinema has more tricks up its sleeve and continues to produce gems like this on a yearly basis; oddly enough Johnnie To tends to be involved in most of these titles! He’s like a one-man hit factory that continuous to impress at a staggering rate. For those disenfranchised by some of Hong Kong’s recent output, you owe it to yourself to check this out.

There’s no UK release as yet, but you can buy the Hong Kong DVD here.

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