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Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Detective C+侦探 by the Pang brothers

When I saw 'THE DETECTIVE' (Chinese title of the film translates as C+ Detective, a Cantonese wordplay for 'Private Detective') the newest film from the Pang Brothers two nights ago, my immediate thought was that Chewxy would have benefited a lot from watching it if this film had came out before he did his debut short film.

Returning to the filmmakers' roots, THE DETECTIVE is set entirely in Thailand, and the film begins with a Thai song. The story is simple, like an old-fashioned film noir, a nearsighted private detective Tam (Aaron Kwok) is visited by an acquaintance, Fat Dragon, one morning, who seeks his help in finding a woman named Sum (Fat Dragon claims that the woman is trying to kill him). So Tam takes this seemingly innocuous case that becomes increasingly complex as it goes on, especially when each lead he gets will bring him to a dead body.

The discovery of these dead bodies are suspenseful and shocking, staged effectively by the Pang Brothers in methods similar to their horror films. I have to say that moments like these are when the Pang Brothers are at their best.

The fact that I was only one of the two people in the cinema that night also made the viewing experience even more hair-raising, i jumped a few times, I gripped at the arm rest, jerked my head back in horror, the film seriously scared the crap out of me.

The film is engaging to watch because Tam isn't really a super detective, he's just a regular bloke with quick wits and some deducing skills, who constantly finds himself in trouble and danger, and occasionally has to be bailed out by his cop friend Ah Chak (Liu Kai-Chi, really good here). Since he isn't superhuman, and seems just as shocked and disgusted as audiences are at the gruesome sight of corpses (Sam Spade he ain't).

Wasn't that impressed by his Golden Horse award-winning turn in DIVERGENCE, have yet to watch AFTER THIS OUR EXILE (which made him only the second actor in history to win back-to-back Golden Horse acting awards), but THE DETECTIVE managed to convince me that Aaron Kwok has blossomed into a good actor worth watching!


The Aaron Kwok of today is definitely much better than the girly man pop idol Aaron Kwok of the early 90s:

a young Aaron Kwok

It's refreshing to see a private eye film coming out from Hong Kong, and done in a manner much different from the often-parodied B&W film noirs of the 1930-40s. This is a good film of its genre, but there ARE some parts that I don't like that much, like the attempts to flesh out Tam's character by weaving in his back story about his parents' disappearances during childhood (the key event that turned him into a private detective). While I think the Pang brothers are really good when it comes to manipulating tension, they do get too over-the-top sentimental and mawkish sometimes (like the ending of 2006's RE-CYCLE), thus making the film feel rather schizophrenic. The whodunit and Tam's investigation of the case is cool, even though he doesn't really get as emotionally involved in the case as most protagonists of such stories would, but the film's tainted by the sentimental crap!

Good film, don't think it deserved being shown to nearly-empty cinemas.