Neuchatel 2023 Review: MAD FATE Intervenes in Demented Style

Soi Cheang directed the Hong Kong mystery thriller from Milkyway Image.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
Neuchatel 2023 Review: MAD FATE Intervenes in Demented Style

Let me bury you to keep you alive.

Mad Fate
The film screened at the Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival.

Filmmaker Soi Cheang certainly knows how to kick-start a movie into overdrive. The director begins his latest thriller with a nighttime burial scene in which a fortune-teller, known as The Master (Gordon Lam Ka-Tung), seeks to save a woman from calamitous times by burying her for the two hours when she is at highest risk of dying.

No matter what he calls himself, The Master is definitely not in control of his own emotions. He's a frantic person who acts in a hysterical fashion in order to help others. Or so he claims, as his true motivations remain in question throughout.

In any event, he keeps getting in the way of The Veteran (Berg Ng Ting-Yip), an experienced police inspector who's focused on catching The Murderer (Peter Chan Charm-Man), a serial killer who's targeting sex workers. The Master, The Veteran, and The Murderer criss-cross paths constantly, often intersecting with The Prostitute (Ng Wing-Sze), who wants to escape the fate that The Master tells her is her destiny.

It's a thick brew of characterizations, as the leading players edge into and out of suspicion and highly-stressful situations. To complicate matters further, delivery person Siu Tung (Yeung Lok-Man) appears on the gruesome scene of the latest serial killing and is disturbingly curious about dripping blood and the terribly murdered body of the victim. The Veteran recognizes Siu Tung as someone who has been torturing and possibly killing animals, a foreboding sign for a serial killer in the making.

Is everyone controlled by fate? Can they do anything to change their fate? The Master claims that he can help people change their fate, which is what emboldens him to pester everyone about doing a reading for them. Initially skeptical, The Prostitute cries out for his help when her own life is threatened by ominous forces, beyond the looming debt collectors who shadow her every move.

In his earlier films, such as Dog Bite Dog (2006), Shamo (2007), Accident (2009), Motorway (2012), and SPL 2: A Time of Consequences, director Soi Cheang has constructed scenarios that are distinctively dark whirlwinds of action and suspense. Working from a script by veteran Milkywage Image writer Yau Nai-Hoi and in collaboration with cinematographers Cheung Siu-Keung and To Hung-Mo, Mad Fate is a stylish, potent brew that is filled with sharp objects that puncture and cut and slash and wound and kill.

It's not only the guns and the knives, it's the tightly-coiled emotions that frequently burst through the rainy nights, cloudy days, and cluttered interiors that induce a queasy sense of claustrophobia. Mad Fate feels like the walls are constantly closing in.

Editor's note: thanks to HKMDB for invaluable help in identifying proper credits.

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Hong KongMilkyway ImageNeuchatel International Fantastic Film FestivalSoi Cheang

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