Saturday, March 27, 2010

[HKIFF 2010 Review] Slice (Cheun) (International Premiere)


The draw of this film personally is the involvement of Thai filmmaker Wisit Sasanatieng, who has of late been working on his Red Eagle film (am eagerly anticipating of course), but had managed to find time to pen down the story for Slice, a gory investigative thriller directed by Konkiat Komesiri who also wrote the screenplay from Wisit's story. From his past filmography in Muay Thai Chaiya and Art of the Devil 2/3, Konkiat successfully blends his experience from the previous films, and his Slice has clear influences from his horror and action background, more so the former when dealing with the gorier bits in the film.

The film opens with a pedophile in a hotel room being given his retribution, where a figure cloaked in a red hood begins to systematically stab and eventually slice off the offender's genitals, before shoving it up the backside and having the mangled body disposed off into the river in a big red suitcase. This seems to be the modus operandi of the serial killer, and it baffles the police, led by corrupt cop Papa Chin (Chatchai Plengpanich). His only lead is Tai (Arak Amornsupasiri), an ex-cop serving time in jail and doing Chin's dirty work while inside, who has a 20 year old dream of the same situation of a cloaked figure and a red suitcase, and gets temporary reprieve by Chin to perform some investigations outside for 15 days, a deadline given by a Minister whose son had fallen victim to Mr Slice.

The narrative though has surprisingly placed very little focus on the investigative drama it had set out to be. Instead, substantial time got devoted to the background and flashback to the past of the characters, dealing more with the friendship between Tai (the younger version played by Sikarin Polyong) and Nut (Artthapan Poolsawad), an outcast whom his peers deem fresh meat to be bullied, and encourages Tai to do the same. So on one hand, Tai can be Nut's best friend when they're alone, but when faced with peer pressure, do things that a true friend will possible not perform. And as if his life is already not miserable enough, Nut is also a sexually abused kid. So one can wonder what kind of effect such duality in friendship, and abuse would do to a person when growing up during the formative years.

Like most Thai thrillers, this one comes with the token twist, though one should already see it coming with the numerous clues that Konkiat drops along the way, and adopts in certain terms like the Hong Kong thriller Confession of Pain, the identity of the killer is actually a non-issue and gets dealt with in a matter of fact manner. I will liken the style of the story to be much like the 20th Century Boys trilogy, where the young ones are given a lot more airtime, and the solution to today's problems as faced by the characters, can be found in their past childhood. You'll feel a little pang of pain especially when all anyone wants, is to be a friend of somebody since no man is an island, but it is this outreach of wanting to belong, when being abused, will bring about some heavy heart.

The violence and gore here is graphic, bloody and brutal, though sometimes Konkiat had left things to the imagination to connect the final dots, with the mind after all being more sinister in conjuring up even more frightful imagery. Makeup is excellent, and in particular the part with a man struggling to hold up a terribly broken jaw. There are no good or bad characters here in the film as they all come with a shade of gray, and as mentioned while it offers little surprise, the revelation does leave one feeling a little icky, though the emotional resonance will likely ring through based on the usual horrific elements similar to how ghouls just refuse to leave their chosen someone alone.

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