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Review: Revenge: A Love Story (2010)

Revenge: A Love Story

复仇者之死

Hong Kong, 2010, colour, 2.35:1, 95 mins.

Director: Huang Jingfu 黄精甫 [Wong Ching-po].

Rating: 6/10.

An effective enough exploitation movie dressed up in apocalyptic clothes.

STORY

Yuanlang [Yuen Long] district, New Territories, Hong Kong, the present day. During Armageddon the Devil reigns supreme. When Judgement Day approaches, who is on the shortest path to Hell? 当末日由魔鬼作主,审判的一刻,谁最接近地狱. A man returns to his flat and is garrotted by an intruder. Chapter 1: Murdering the Devil’s Madman 第一章:谋杀魔鬼的疯子. A plastic bag containing a baby’s foetus and the ID of police detective Ding (Lin Lingyuan) is fished out of the nearby Shanbei [Shan Pui] river. In Ding’s flat the body of his pregnant wife is found, minus her baby’s foetus. The same fate awaits Ding’s colleague, veteran detective Lao Gui (Huang Shutang), and his pregnant young wife. Ting and Lao Gui’s colleagues, led by Jeff (Qian Xiaohao), arrest Chen Jie (Mai Junlong) and try to beat a confession from him. Chapter 2: The Breath of the Devil’s Grave Raider 第二章:掘魔鬼坟墓者的呼吸声. A pregnant young woman watches the cases on TV and then slits open her own belly. Chapter 3: Life Has Told Us a Secret 第三章:生命亲口向我们透露过这秘密. Some six months earlier, Chen Jie, a steamed-bun seller in a small New Territories town, had fallen for Zhang Ying (Aoi Sora), a mentally retarded schoolgirl who lived with her crazy grandmother (Sun Huilian). After her grandmother died, Zhang Ying stayed with her body for three days and was finally taken off to a nursing home and sedated. Chen Jie rescued her, but later Zhang Ying was almost raped by the drunken Du Xueshun (Liu Yong), who mistook her for a call-girl while she was showering in the flat of a hooker neighbour. Chen Jie and Zhang Ying reported the case to the local police, whose chief detective happened to be Du Xueshun. His colleagues agreed to cover up the case, and Zhang Ying was serially raped by them in the police station. Chen Jie was sent to prison for six months and Zhang Ying put in a welfare home. When he was released, she was heavily pregnant. Chapter 4: Before the Blood Flows, Do Not Believe the Giver of Eternal Life 第四章:鲜血流出之前,别相信谁能给你永生. When news arrives of the third pregnant woman’s death, Chen Jie is released from his murder interrogation, on the grounds he cannot be the serial killer. Chen Jie collects Zhang Ying from hospital, and Jeff and colleague Guohua (He Huachao) privately hunt him down. Chapter 5: They Saw the Moment When God and the Devil Shook Hands 第五章:他们看见上帝和魔鬼握手的一刻. The police catch up with Chen Jie and Zhang Ying. Five years later, Chen Jie tracks down Du Xueshun, who has since “found God” and become a minister. Final Chapter: They Saw the Beginning of the End, Shaking Hands and Killing 终章:群众目睹他们杀戮,同时目睹他们拥抱. Chen Jie confronts Du Xueshun at his church school.

REVIEW

The second production funded by 852 Films – set up by Hong Kong actress He Chaoyi 何超仪 [Josie Ho] and producers Chen Zicong 陈子聪 and Huang Youying 黄佑颖 – Revenge: A Love Story 复仇者之死 is a good old-fashioned exploitation movie that recalls Category III shockers of the early 1990s but is dressed up in artier photography and adorned with faux-biblical quotes about the Devil. Like 852 Films’ first production, slasher horror Dream Home 维多利亚壹号 (2010) by Peng Haoxiang 彭浩翔 [Pang Ho-cheung], it deliberately pushes the envelope on guts and violence – here with a story about pregnant women having their foetuses cut out – though in a less visceral way. And its basic story, turning on a young man’s revenge on corrupt cops who raped his dream girl, lacks any of the socio-economic background that Peng attempted to background his movie with.

That’s hardly a problem, however, as Revenge – like Dream House – still works as an exploitation movie if one ignores its apocalyptic intertitles (“During Armageddon the Devil reigns supreme”, etc.) and just goes with the flow. The cold, desaturated visuals and stylish compositions by Hong Kong d.p. Wang Jincheng 王金城 carry a chill of their own that matches the glassy-eyed lead performance of singer Mai Junlong [Juno Mak], who played one of the two partying cops in Dream Home, and the icy playing of Liu Yong 刘永 and Qian Xiaohao 钱小豪 as the leaders of the corrupt cops. The script by director Huang Jingfu 黄精甫 [Wong Ching-po] and Liang Liyan 梁礼彦 [Jill Leung] is a barely believable construct that’s entirely at the service of the violence, making Revenge another typically uneven movie by a director who’s aways worth watching but has never managed to come up with a film that realises its full potential (Fu Bo 福伯, 2003; Jiang Hu 江湖, 2004; Mob Sister 阿嫂, aka Ah Sou, 2005).

As the only actress in the movie with a substantial role, Japanese AV star Aoi Sora 苍井空 – also in Gekijoban S to M SとM 剧场版, 2010, and Torso トルソ, 2010 – looks suitably cute but is basically a mute appendage to Mai. Daniel Findlay’s atmospheric score is a good match for Wang’s photography, and a late-on car stunt that blends live action with visual effects is a real jaw-dropper. For Chinese-speaking audiences, the film’s original title gives the game away about the surprise ending.

CREDITS

Presented by 852 Films (HK). Produced by ETA (HK).

Script: Huang Jingfu [Wong Ching-po], Liang Liyan [Jill Leung]. Original story: Mai Junlong [Juno Mak]. Photography: Wang Jincheng. Editing: Huang Jingfu [Wong Ching-po], Zhang Jiahui [Cheung Ka-fai]. Music: Daniel Findlay. Art direction: Feng Shufen. Costume design: Cai Yong’er. Sound: Chen Zhijian, Zhu Zhixia, You Guoliang. Action: Huang Weiliang [Jack Wong]. Car stunts: Li Zhaoguang. Special effects make-up: Kuromiya Yumiko. Visual effects: Li Wenjun, Lin Hongfeng, Yu Guoliang (Free-D Workshop).

Cast: Mai Junlong [Juno Mak] (Chen Jie), Aoi Sora (Zhang Ying), Liu Yong (Du Xueshun), Qian Xiaohao (Jeff), Huang Shutang (Lao Gui), He Huachao (Guohua), Lin Lingyuan (Ding), Sun Huilian (Zhang Ying’s grandmother), Luo Yulin (grocery-shop boss), Zhang Jianyi (Ling, prostitute), Yu Dazhi, Liang Daqiang, Huang Zhihong (police detectives), Mo Zhanguang (senior police superintendent), Xu Minghui (police superintendent), Tan Tianbao, Ouyang Yanping (neighbours), Liang En’er (TV news presenter), Tan Junhao (student).

Premiere: Hong Kong Asian Film Festival (Co-Opening Film), 22 Oct 2010.

Release: Hong Kong, 2 Dec 2010.

(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 10 Jul 2011.)