Director: Lien Yi-chi
Starring: Alec Su, Matt Wu, Ariel Lin, Lei Hong
Cowardly officer Wang Chih-yi (Alec Su) looks to get through his career with as little conflict as possible. His aversion to dangerous work makes him the perfect partner for gung-ho and gun happy rookie Kao Yi-ping (Ariel Lin) who happens to be the police commissioner’s daughter. Ordered by his superiors to keep her out of trouble and safely out of harm’s way, Wang gets more than he bargained for when a fluff investigation about the death of a dog seems to have ties to a massive case that the entirety of the police force is currently working. It isn’t long before the new partners find themselves dealing with dead bodies, drug dealers, and gay gangsters.
The first experience I’ve had with relative newcomer director Yi-chi Lien, I was more or less unsure what to expect based on the somewhat goofy trailer and generally by the books scenario. What I got itself offers enough variety but with a bit too much abrupt tone changes, even within singular scenes. Not falling squarely in any one genre, the juggling of tones and thematic emphasis clearly reveals the television background of the fledgling director. Technically the film looks pretty good; a dynamic mix of tight and wide, showcasing the unique world that the Taiwan, and the Kaoshiung especially, of this universe inhabits.
Alec Su gives the audience frustration as lead Officer Wang. He’s capable to be sure, but his reticense to get into action and preserve his pension and health is at odds with where the film should go. Ariel Lin is cute and perky, with just the right amount of spunk for a female lead that I tend to favor, but her very young look and occasional doe eyed look may work for her cosmetics commercials, but she seems a bit poorly cast amongst the more experienced extended cast. There is a somewhat suggested romance building between the two that just feels horribly forced and unnatural. Not that the two don’t have chemistry, it’s just that they feel more like brother/sister than prospective lovers. The real surprise here is the pretty funny and interesting take by former teen heartthrob Matt Wu, playing dual roles; a somewhat ridiculous version of himself and his fictional criminal twin brother. The extended cast is rounded out by a number of actors and actresses with small and incidental scenes that seemingly tend to go nowhere, but eventually coalesce late in the film.
The main trouble with the film is how uneven all the proceedings turn out be; the case is way too convoluted, ridiculous plot twists are dropped in arbitrarily, and the very odd genre shifts take the viewer out of the picture at the drop of a hat. In particular, one very odd musical number just seemingly pops up for no real purpose than to drive the film to a halt. Besides these unfortunately frequent moments, the film itself maintains a high pace for the most part. It is the unfortunate side choices that attempt to inject flavor into a concept done to death where the film truly suffers. Perhaps better served as a television series, Sweet Alibis may be too mainstream a film to ever get more than an occasional chuckle from those English-language viewers looking for challenging cinema. I will say this however, the body count gets surprisingly high by the film’s end, ultimately making it all too obvious about the lack of clarity of where the film is going. While by no means unwatchable, Sweet Alibis tends to be far too disjointed and locally flavored to ever find a real audience outside of Chinese territories aside from only the most hungry of viewers.