Director: Soi Cheang
Starring: Louis Koo, Richie Jen, Lam Suet, Michelle Ye, Stanley Fung
Brain (Louis Koo) is a brilliant planner and assassin. With a team that specializes in making murders appear to be accidents, Brain’s preparations have yielded clean getaways and zero suspicion. When events occur that seemingly put Brain and his team in the crossfire of similar ‘accidents’ he sets out to uncover who is behind the orchestrations. Setting his sights on insurance agent Fong (Richie Jen), he starts an investigation that will determine whether he truly is the mastermind behind everything and what type of punishment is right for such a person. As his paranoia and tunnel vision take over his life, will Brain discover what role Fong has played in the assassination attempts, or will his singular drive destroy him?
Soi Cheang directs the film with a very taut script and attention to detail. The camerawork is certainly evocative of many other Milkyway films, but he has certainly put his stamp on this film, helping to further define his own style. There are red herrings and misdirection all over the place and despite the generally limited dialogue, the film is populated with a palpable tension that is hard to characterize. It is a terrifically atmospheric film and one that certainly isn’t seen, unfortunately, enough in modern cinema.
Louis Koo dominates on screen as Brain, he is stressed, but meticulous, and his growing obsession is truly the crux of the film. He has a cool demeanor about him, even as he begins to unwind that is altogether engaging and compelling. Richie Jen gives a solid performance as Fong, and his actions are quite natural as the documented subject of Brain’s obsession. There is an odd sense of voyeurism present, seeing Fong go about his life, seemingly unaware of the continued surveillance by Brain that made me feel somewhat dirty but compelled to continue. It’s an odd feeling that the film gave me an actual physical reaction, but certainly indicative of the filmmaker’s intent. The supporting cast is good as well, and it is always nice to see Lam Suet show up, but this is truly Koo’s film and he is mesmerizing.
Shot among the busy streets of Hong Kong, the film has a deliberately slow pace that uses angles and the design of the buildings to accentuate the storytelling. It’s a beautifully shot film, somehow intimate amongst the bustle of HK streets. Music is very good as well, care of Xavier Jamaux. The score is tension filled and has a pensive feeling that goes very well with the events on screen.
The film was a bit of a surprise to me as it was one of the rare Johnnie To produced films I missed on its original release. Thankfully Shout! Factory has deemed a wide release for the film necessary and its exposure is assured. A great modern HK thriller, Accident certainly gives me hope for the state of Hong Kong cinema once again returning to the heyday of the 80’s and 90’s.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: The Conversation, Drive, and/or Motorway
Special thanks to Shout! Factory for providing a viewing copy!