[While Todd liked this one a lot better than I did, nobody can argue about the tour de force set-pieces on display here. Its playing at Fantasia and best seen on the big screen. Here is Todd's review from the archives.]
He has shown flashes of great promise throughout his career and now,
with Johnnie To produced thriller Accident
, that promise has been
fully realized. Soi Cheang has just moved to the absolute upper level
of Hong Kong directors, putting his own unique and icily precise spin on
the crime thriller.
Louis Koo stars as Brain, the leader of a
four-person crew of paid assassins with a novel approach to evading
capture. They are not captured because they are not chased. They are
not chased because nobody ever realizes any crime has been committed.
The use no guns. They use no knives. Their victims - not to mention
their clients - never even see them. No, rather than using conventional
means this group stages their executions as elaborate, tightly
Though all the members of the group have
their unique skills and roles to fill it is clear that Brain is the
lynch pin that holds it all together, the core of all their plans. He
is meticulously detailed, an obsessive chronicler of details, a man who
shows no emotion whatsoever on his surface - not ever - and so his three
underlings should be forgiven for failing to notice that Brain is
perpetually wracked with grief and guilt over his wife's death in a
traffic accident years before.
Though they are at the top of
their game, Brain will brook no failure, no slipped detail. As he says,
they're not the only ones in their trade and - even if the police may
not be able to catch them - there are plenty of others who would happily
kill Brain and his group, if only to take their place. And so when a
job goes wrong and Brain narrowly avoids death himself while one of his
team members is killed he cannot help but wonder: was this an accident
or is someone using their own methods against them?
the surface, it is hard to believe that Accident
is the product
of the same director responsible for Dog Bite Dog
it is now becoming clear that Cheang's career will be marked by a style
willfully shifting and twisting to match the psychological condition of
his prime character. And so where Dog
is raw and dirty and
brutal and Shamo
full of stark contrast, Accident
in an icy, clinically precise, emotionally distant style that mirrors
Louis Koo's performance as Brain perfectly. Ever shot is precise, every
composition crisp, everything painfully detailed and closely observed.
It is as though Cheang takes as much pleasure in deconstructing his
action sequences as Brain does in constructing them and that synergy
results in a string of stunning images, images that strike the audience
right from the very first shot and refuse to let up until the end.
Cheang is not satisfied to simply create a tight crime thriller here.
His aim is higher. Anchored by one of the finest performances of Louis
Koo's career, Accident
becomes as much a psychological profile of
its lead character - a chronicle of his spiraling descent into
obsession and paranoia - as it is a straightforward action picture.
It's a unique blend and one that Cheang pulls off effortlessly.
not a perfect film - there is a memory loss subplot involving one of
the characters essentially developing Alzheimer's that comes on far too
quickly to be believable and some of the accidents seem far too complex
to be plausible - even the weak parts are executed with such confidence
that they are easy to forgive. Accident
is clearly the high
point of Cheang's career and - even moreso - proof that Hong Kong film
in general has not lost its ability to reinvent the crime thriller.
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