Director: Roy Chow
Starring: Nick Cheung, Simon Yam, Janice Man, Kay Tse, Michael Wong
Released after 20 years in prison, Eugene Wong (Nick Cheung) finds a very different Hong Kong than he remembered. Shortly after his release, a prominent musician and celebrity (Michael Wong) is found dead; his corpse burned, face crushed, and weighted to sink to the bottom of the bay. When it is discovered that Wong’s own prosecution and conviction has ties with the surviving family’s history, the detective assigned to the case, Lam (Simon Yam), begins an investigation that will threaten to open up old wounds and reveal a secret that has been hidden for two decades. As the lines of victim and culprit begin to blur, will Lam find Wong before another death comes to pass?
Director Chow Hin Yeung’s sophomore effort, Nightfall shares much of its pedigree with some of the more celebrated revenge pictures of our time. Heavily influenced by films such as Sympathy For Lady Vengeance and Chinatown, Nightfall is a stylistic, and tension filled detective story. With photography that evokes the idea of the hunter and its prey, misdirects and red herrings litter the film and one never knows exactly what is real or true. It’s a tightly directed picture that has the power to make you feel unsettled, particularly because of the amazingly tough performance by veteran Nick Cheung.
Cheung’s Wong is first introduced via a brutal and wince-inducing prison fight that shows that he is truly not one to be trifled with. Giving a purely physical performance, Wong is mute; Cheung is probably the best he’s been in years. He is so intimidating, so calculating, and so meticulous that his command of the screen is mesmerizing. Simon Yam is always good and though he plays a pretty straightforward detective role, his Lam has more than a bit of backstory that he is well equipped to use in his performance. It’s a solid performance and of the caliber I expect from Yam’s always prolific work ethic. The rest of the cast is filled in with solid performances, particularly Janice Man, who plays the dual role of Eva and Zoe, sisters years apart in age and never acquainted. Certainly a more reactive performance, Man’s acting was very nuanced and natural. Throw in some quick cameos by some established character actors like Gordon Liu and Ken Lo and the film fulfills its star quota quite handily.
In terms of production, the film looks and sounds good. Set design is impressive and the tone and progression of police work seems natural and developed. Music is good with some very effective musical cues and lovely piano music used for a majority of the film. There are few CG shots interspersed throughout and while they are competently done, the fact that they show up very late in the picture took me out of the film a bit.
In the end, Nightfall is a well-made and executed detective thriller that should satisfy most. Because of the huge influence of revenge cinema from Korea, I don’t think that many will be surprised by the revelation of the film, but it is a competently handled finale that is earned. While there are certainly better mysteries released in recent years, Nightfall is absolutely worth a look for the tour de force performance by Cheung and the well-executed thriller within.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Perfect Number, Chinatown, Oldboy
Special Thanks to WellGo USA for providing a viewing copy!