Sunday, February 05, 2012

[DVD] Revenge: A Love Story (復仇者之死 / Fuk Sau Che Chi Sei) (2010)


Director Wong Ching Po has to date helmed a handful of Hong Kong films that centers upon the triads and crime, and his solo efforts in Jiang Hu and Mob Sister boasted a stellar ensemble cast each of the who's who in the industry, with the films bursting with strong visuals that would become his signature style. Revenge: A Love Story is exactly just as its title describes, a tale that meshed two genres together in one explosive narrative that's tender one moment, and next bursting into an all out revenge flick that's slickly bathed in its fair share of blood and gore.

Based on a story by Juno Mak, who also plays the protagonist Chan Kit, the story sets off as a serial killer mystery, where pregnant women got morbidly killed and having their unborn fetuses forcefully carved out of their womb, then left to die. The cops are all out wondering which sick bastard out there had the heart to do what he did, and it's not before long that detective Jeff (Chin Siu Ho) gets on the case, realizing the victims were the wives of his missing colleagues.

Unravelling the narrative in chapters complete with intertitles (that I felt had a lot more meaning in its original Chinese text than the English translated ones), the romantic and emotional center of the film revolves around that of Chan Kit, a lowly steamed bun hawker who falls in love with a student, the somewhat mentally slow girl called Cheung Wing (Japanese AV Star Sola Aoi), who lives with her grandmother until the latter passed away and got handled by the welfare department. Breaking her out, Chan Kit and Cheung Wing share plenty of first love moments, until an unspeakable crime of violation takes place and they soon find themselves at the mercy of corrupt cops who put their collective camaraderie and brotherhood at a level higher than justice and the law they are supposed to uphold.

The screenplay by Wong Ching Po and Jill Leung puts you on the sympathetic side of the lovers Chan Kit and Cheung Wing, that is set to enrage when you'd find it inevitably sick when those tasked to protect turn out to be tormentors, and possessing questionable morals when in a position of power and trust. And once the seeds are sown, the narrative that went on the path of vengeance and hatred become that typical revenge flick where the audience rallies behind the killer as he goes on his rampage. Thanks to the strong emotional anchors in the story, this film did not fall into the territory of the mediocre, but managed to stand out on its own amongst its peers that deal with the themes of hate and revenge.

And credit to that standing out is Wong Ching Po's visuals, who together with Director of Photography Jimmy Wong, crafted something that's highly memorable with its use of slow motion that punctuated each action sequence nicely, without over-using the technique or going overboard with it. The many shades of grey mirrors the muddy field where the law gets crossed by either side, that the events that unfold have gone beyond simple black and white. Both the director and his cinematographer gave rise to this film's stylish look, coupled with very inventive camera angles and its distinct money shots that seamlessly combine practical effects and make up, with computer generated images. Dan Findlay's score is something you have to pay attention to, as he conjures musical themes that provides the film with yet another emotional and thematic dimension.

Juno Mak, a one time music heart throb, shows off his acting chops here, something that I never once would have imagined he's capable of, and I'm glad to be proven wrong. He becomes both the hunter and hunted all rolled into one, and has this charisma to carry the film and not be overshadowed or overawed by the presence of veterans like Chin Siu Ho. Sola Aoi proved to be a revelation of sorts, with the production team making the call to cast an AV star for obvious reasons, and in some way I'm sure it's also a calculated effort on their part to pull in fans of hers into a film like this one to see their idol in a very different light. I shall say that she can act, despite having a role with minimal dialogue because she's not fluent in the language, but does her best in bringing that sense of vulnerability to the role.

Revenge: A Love Story is a film with dark themes blessed with stylish delivery that keeps you hooked right up to the very last minute with a shocker of an ending that made it look pretty much like a rugby brawl. If you're game for a Hong Kong crime thriller that's outside of the usual production big wigs, then remember the name Wong Ching Po, whom I feel is on a roll onto more stylishly told films to come. Highly recommended!

The DVD release by Terror-Cotta, a newly launched imprint label devoted to horror and thrillers from Terracotta Distribution, autoplays with the trailer for Korean horror film Death Bell (2:06) when it's popped into the player, and presents the feature film proper in a gorgeous anamorphic widescreen transer with audio available in 5.1 Cantonese Surround Sound, 2.0 Cantonese Stereo and 2.0 Mandarin Stereo. English subtitles are available, and scene selection is over 12 chapters.

There are only two broad Extras packed into this one disc edition. The Making Of (26:13) is the standard behind the scenes production with talking head interviews with various cast and crew from director Wong Ching-Po to lead actors Juno Mak and Sola Aoi, split into chapters talking about the action and stunts of the films, the casting decision to go ahead with an AV star, and the special effects and make up that contributed to the blood and gore.

The Producer Interview (6:14) is in English, is a somewhat informal chat with Conroy Chan who details the founding of his 852 Films production house, providing some insights as to what they want to achieve in breaking the boundaries of filmmaking, and about casting. The minor extras included are About Terracotta which contains a series of web URLs to Terracotta Distribution, and its social media sites on Facebook, Twitter and Meetup, in addition to a short clip called What is Terracotta Festival (2:45) which is essentially a trailer of the said festival that includes clips from behind the scenes, the festival guests, programmers, the lineup, etc.

Rounding up the Extras are Trailers for Big Tits Zombies (1:47), Hansel and Gretel (1:45), The Fox Family (1:31), The Detective (1:47), God Man Dog (1:54), Breathless (1:57), Sparrow (2:10) and Death Bell (2:06).

You can find out more about the DVD release from this Terracotta Distribution website, and with the release of the DVD on 23 Jan 2012, proceed to make a purchase of it from Amazon or Play.

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