CONFESSION OF PAIN

Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro in Confession of Pain


Three Chinese films opened in Malaysia yesterday to compete (sorta) for the Christmas week. The local Chinese film, Love Conquers All, directed by Tan Chui Mui (my review here), Curse of the Golden Flower (directed by Zhang Yimou, starring superstars Chow Yun Fat, Gong Li and Jay Chou) and finally, Confession of Pain (directed by Infernal Affairs duo Alan Mak and Andrew Lau, starring Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Shu Qi and the world's most famous Chinese blogger, Xu Jing Lei). Golden Flower is most likely going to be the top film this Christmas due to its massive promotional campaign, however, if you were going to choose between Love Conquers All and Confession of Pain, I suggest you go see the former since it's better for you to contribute to the local indie film industry than to suffer the colossal disappointment I had last night.



I'm not kidding.

The directing duo employed all kinds of visual devices that made their previous hits, the Infernal Affairs films and Initial D, so stylish to watch (Andrew Lau was Wong Kar Wai's cinematographer for Chungking Express, alongside Christopher Doyle, and was said to be the one who devised the now-iconic slow shuttle, slow mo, blurry shots in that film) . The acting, obviously, was good, with Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro collaborating for the very first time (they were both in Chungking Express, yes, but neither of them were in the same scene together), Shu Qi doing her cute shtick (her character was likeable, but it felt like a step backward for her, being in the kind of comedic role she had done earlier in her career, not something you would expect from someone who had just won the Golden Horse Best Actress award last year for Hou Hsiao Hsien's Three Times) and, er, Xu Jing Lei, like all mainland Chinese actresses in a HK movie, being dubbed in Cantonese.

And that was it, nothing else about the film worked. The film, a murder investigation drama, was such a humongous bore with such an insipid script (featuring plot holes you could drive a truck through) that the only thing that kept me seated and prevented me from falling asleep was the immensely charismatic acting from the leads, and the fascination of seeing Tony Leung as the bad guy for the very first time in his career.

Tony Leung in Confession of PainYet here comes the problem with the film's promotional campaign, which was so focused on selling Tony Leung as a villain that whatever possible surprises I could've gotten from the film were ruined. But then, there really wasn't that many selling points in this film. Yet imagine how things would be like if Sixth Sense was promoted with 'Watch Bruce Willis as a GHOST who helps a little boy who sees dead people!" or Seven promoted with "Watch Kevin Spacey kill Gwyneth Paltrow and put her head into a box and send it to Brad Pitt so that Brad Pitt can kill Kevin to complete the seventh kill!" or Fight Club promoted with "Watch Brad Pitt play Edward Norton's imaginary alter ego!" or Empire Strikes Back with "Watch as we find out Darth Vader is Luke's father!!!"

Sometimes, you just can't reveal a twist like that in a film.

The following spoilers-filled MSN conversation with my friend just now will illustrate more about this film. Yes, I'm go read it, don't waste your money and time with the film, better to just find out everything about this film via me. (Malaysian-slang English reduced for international consumption)

lieweemei says:
so wat u up to
Great Swifty says:
Saw this new movie, Confession of Pain (伤城) last night
Great Swifty says:
starring Tony Leung
Great Swifty says:
and Takeshi Kaneshiro
Great Swifty says:
SHIT MOVIE
Great Swifty says:
directed by the Infernal Affairs directors, Alan Mak and Andrew Lau
lieweemei says:
i love
lieweemei says:
the actors
Great Swifty says:
i know
Great Swifty says:
me too
lieweemei says:
Oh? SHIT MOVIE?
Great Swifty says:
even had shu qi and china actress/director xujing lei
Great Swifty says:
very draggy and slow
lieweemei says:
not nice?
Great Swifty says:
and the story's very predictable
Great Swifty says:
no surprises
Great Swifty says:
because the promotion kept on saying that tony leung's the bad guy
Great Swifty says:
so when the guys started investigating the murders, you know that Tony's behind everything
Great Swifty says:
and as it went on, you felt that Kaneshiro's an idiot because he couldn't figure everything out
lieweemei says:
haha
lieweemei says:
stupid promotion
lieweemei says:
haha
Great Swifty says:
yeah, because it's not much of a commercial film
Great Swifty says:
so the only way to promote is to say
Great Swifty says:
"TONY LEUNG, FIRST TIME AS THE BAD GUY!!!"
Great Swifty says:
that's why as the film went on, i was like "C'mon, Kaneshiro, expose Tony!"
Great Swifty says:
the story is
Great Swifty says:
tony leung = high ranking police
Great Swifty says:
kaneshiro = private eye, ex cop who used to work for tony
Great Swifty says:
so one day, when tony just got married, his wife's father got killed violently (bashed up by stone statue of Buddha's head)
Great Swifty says:
Kaneshiro (an alcoholic recovering from girlfriend's tragic suicide years ago) and Tony went to investigate
Great Swifty says:
... but we all know Tony's the baddie.
Great Swifty says:
because during the first time kaneshiro was at the crime scene, there was this stylized flashbacks of tony going around killing people
Great Swifty says:
it was quite stylish. kaneshiro himself in colour, but everything else black and white
Great Swifty says:
Turned out that tony married the wife just to get near the father so he can kill him for revenge
Great Swifty says:
but as he tried to kill his wife, he realized that he really did love her
Great Swifty says:
but he had just put her in a kitchen and left the gas open
Great Swifty says:
so that when phone rang, the oven went BOOOOOM
Great Swifty says:
and then guilt-ridden tony looked after her in the hospital. kaneshiro went off to continue investigation, wife woke up and knew that tony was a liar, asked whether he had loved her before
Great Swifty says:
he said yes, she turned away from him and wept
Great Swifty says:
after that, kaneshiro confronted tony, tony showed his sheer acting skills by suddenly having tears flowing down (and saying that even if the wife is or isn't his enemy's daughter, she's still his family)
Great Swifty says:
Kaneshiro left, Tony's wife had committed suicide in hospital, tony killed himself
Great Swifty says:
kaneshiro lived a bit happily ever after with shu qi
Great Swifty says:
the end

Movie poster of Confession of PainThe film might not have aimed itself as a suspenseful crime thriller like Infernal Affairs, or a popcorn fare like Infernal Affairs, since the tone and pacing are already set during the beginning of the film. Prior to an operation to arrest a serial rapist, Tony Leung's character, Hei, and Kaneshiro's Bong were involved in a rather lengthy, analogous discussion about girl problems and whiskey, so this is more likely a character study drama bent on investigating how people would change due to the irony and injustices they face in life. But whatever fascination I could get was diminished, nay, ruined when the film turned out to be so stale and lifeless.

I was surprised to see two Malay guys walking into the cinemas to see this movie last night, their support of Chinese films was flattering. However, as the film dragged on, they began talking among themselves. Normally, such situations would result in them being shushed by other members of the audiences. However, in this case, no one bothered to.

The only confession of pain I want to make is my own.

By the way, this film is partly financed by Avex, thus Ayumi Hamasaki's 'Secret' (from the album Justin had just reviewed here) was used as its theme song.


Confession of Pain music video (Ayumi Hamasaki's Secret)