Blu-ray Review: Soi Cheang's ACCIDENT (Shout! Factory)

Associate Editor; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
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Blu-ray Review: Soi Cheang's ACCIDENT (Shout! Factory)
Soi Cheang first came to most film fans' attention with his film, Dog Bite Dog, which got rave reviews from all over. In the years since that film, he's been plugging away at the Hong Kong film scene with films like Shamo and 2009's Accident, starring Louis Koo and Richie Jen. The film showed at TIFF 2009 to a great response, and is truly one of the finest features out of HK in the last few years. Crime thrillers are nothing new, but Accident puts a new spin on an old story and does it with class, I only wish that I could say the same about this Blu-ray release of the film.

When an assassin who plots elaborate murders to look like accidents fears that he's on the wrong side of the gun, he gets paranoid, and begins fighting for his life. Louis Koo is Brain, the leader of the small crew of killers. He is joined by Fatty (Suet Lam), Uncle (Shui-Fan Fung), and Woman (Michelle Ye), who each use their unique skills and abilities to blend in to make extremely elaborate accidents for hire. When one of the team takes a hit in a supposed murder gone wrong, Brain starts to question everything he thinks he knows. He begins to suspect everyone is out to get him, and he might be right.

Louis Koo's performance is the glue that holds this film together. Each of the supporting characters gets their moment in the sun, but without Koo, the film has nothing to work with. Soi Cheang has taken what most HK directors would have made into a frenzied action film and made a rather subdued thriller with brief flashes of action, but much less than you would expect. The film's eighty-seven minute runtime ratchets up the tension, ensuring that every minute counts, and as we get deeper into Brain's head, the more tense it becomes.

Soi Cheang's success with Accident relies on his ability to build Brain's character into someone who seems to me losing his mind, while at the same time he gathers every minute detail. Koo's low key mannerisms match with his character's confidence level, until he starts to lose it. Is he being watched, is he being targeted? He's not sure, and neither are we, until a brash climax slaps us across the face.

With Cheang's Motorway having recently premiered in Hong Kong, it would appear that Accident may still be the apex of his career, though it is very clear that the man has style to spare. This is a fantastic film that has finally found a home on US home video through Shout! Factory.

The Disc:

Now for the bad news. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray of Accident is among the worst transfers of a contemporary film I've ever seen on the format. The image is soft throughout the film, and the colors are murky. I understand that there are several points at which the film is intentionally soft, but there was no point during the film that fine detail was present. I was amazed at how awful it looked. After the first five minutes or so, I thought it may have been a scene specific stylistic choice, but by the half-hour mark, I was peering into my TV praying that the image would get better, but it didn't. This is really shocking to me, as I've had nothing but good luck with Shout! Factory before, and even their Nurses Collection on DVD (which I'll be reviewing soon) looked better than this. A real disappointment. The audio fares significantly better, with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that is very immersive and helps to transport the audience into the film. I just wish the image wasn't so distractingly awful.

The only major extra on the disc is a "making of" that last around 25 minutes and is essentially a bunch of short EPKs strung together. Sort of neat, but nowhere near comprehensive.

I love this film, and I wish I could recommend this disc, but with the borderline DVD-quality image, I just can't do it.

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DooKJune 7, 2012 9:58 PM

What a shame, I was anticipating this BD release as it looked like it would improve on some things the HK BD could've had.

Jon PaisJune 7, 2012 11:58 PM

The first minutes of the film were great stuff, then it was just downhill from there - a group of supposed experts at faking accidents and their utterly uncharismatic leader, none of whom engaged any admiration either for their skills or for their character. As I recall, it was something like a one-and-a-half hour slog about Brain, someone whom I didn't particularly care one way or another whether he was killed or not. The romance angle (about Brain's deceased wife or something, I hardly remember anymore) was clumsily done as well. A completely missable movie. I'd rather re-watch any of the four or five good heist films Johnnie To has made.