It's about kidnapping, and it's, like, dark, y'see? ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's about kidnapping, and it's, like, dark, y'see?

Black Ransom
My rating:

I've been thinking of writing a rant about annoying audience behaviours in the cinema. My viewing of Black Ransom had some of the worst assholes I've had the displeasure of sharing a movie theatre with; there were two douchebags who talked on the phone loudly, another guy with an irritating (and loud) laugh, and a bunch of teenagers who stepped out for a full third of the movie before tromping noisily back in. But then again, I'd only be ranting about what everyone already knows - people who talk at the movies are inconsiderate morons, yeah yeah, what's new.

Besides, I'd be more pissed off about it if the movie hadn't sucked.

Brother Mann (Simon Yam) is a veteran cop whose B-team is perpetually overshadowed by the more glamourous and successful A-team led by the arrogant Tiger (Chan Bo-Yuen). However, the new Superintendent Koo (Fala Chen) respects Mann's experience, and puts both teams on a new case: triad leader Qing (Parkman Wong) has been kidnapped and held for ransom, the latest in a series of high-ranking gang kidnappings. The leader of the kidnappers is Sam (Michael Miu), an ex-cop turned vigilante against the gangsters he arrested but couldn't convict. And although Sam is married to Can (Qu Ying), he still carries a torch for Eva (Liu Yang), who in turn is being wooed by another gang leader Ice (Kenny Wong Tak-Bun). And both Sam and Mann have grudges to bear against Ice.

It's been a lousy couple of weeks at the movies, and that's why I chose to watch a film that did not get a favourable review from the good folks at LoveHKFilm. I was desperately trying to avoid The Spy Next Door and The Tooth Fairy, but I had to update the blog, and I thought this one could at least be cooler than The Rock/Jackie Chan hamming it up with the cutesy and the kiddie-friendly. But the Movie Gods have decreed, "Thou Shalt Not Turn Thy Nose Up At Family-friendly Fare, Nor Shalt Thou Judge A Film Solely By Its Premise (No Matter How Hackneyed)." Thus they have chosen to punish me two-fold. Black Ransom is an incredibly slapdash movie, and I can't even get too mad at Irritating Laugh Guy because it really is laughably bad.

This movie was written (and produced) by Hong Kong crapmeister Wong Jing, and it's like every ten pages or so, he'd suddenly remember something from some other movie he saw and just throw it into the script. At heart, it's a cat-and-mouse action thriller between soulful cop and honourable crook, which is typical Hong Kong movie fare. But soulful cop is also saddled with a smarmy rival and ditzy teenage daughter and traumatic past, and honourable crook also has a traumatic past and love triangle and righteous anger against a broken justice system. (Wong Jing must've watched Law Abiding Citizen at some point.) And there's also a bona fide villain for you to hiss at, in case the hero-vs-antihero conflict gets a little too morally ambiguous.

All of which could still work if it were handled skilfully, if all these plot threads were effectively woven together and satisfyingly resolved. But Wong Jing isn't out to make a good movie here, just a quick buck. Tiger and his A-team disappear halfway in, as does Qing. The revelation of Mann's and Sam's traumatic pasts come completely out of left field. Superintendent Koo has nothing to do except look pretty. Mann's daughter Yan (Hiromi Wada) gets involved in the proceedings through a wildly improbable coincidence. There's a climactic fight scene that's effectively choreographed, but what makes it a real head-scratcher is that it's between a good guy and a sympathetic guy, instead of, say, a villain.

And then there's the truly WTF and LOLworthy stuff. During a firefight with Sam and his men, Mann closes his eyes and summons "the feeling" - which is this sharpshooting superpower that allows him to take out a rooftop sniper. Later on, it gives him the ability to curve a bullet like James McAvoy in Wanted. No, I am not making this up. There are two flashback scenes that are hilariously and jarringly over-the-top violent. And at one point, a guy goes to a girl's place for dinner, unaware that it's a trap set by her lover - who waits till after dinner and a make-out session between the guy and his girl before springing the trap. None of this is even trashy fun; director Keung Kwok-Man doesn't have the visual flair to make all this silliness entertaining. In fact, much of the first half is downright boring, with precious few action scenes to lighten the bad drama.

The movie has two saving graces, and they go by the names of Simon Yam and Michael Miu. I've seen Yam in so many smarmy villain roles that I'm still surprised he can play heroes; his many decades of acting experience give him the gravitas and screen presence to emerge unscathed from a Wong Jing movie. He even manages to almost - almost - sell the "feeling" scene. Miu may not have had the career his TVB peers from the early 80s (which included Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) had, but he's another old pro, and he turns in an equally classy performance. That's about it for noteworthy acting in this film, really. Fala Chen is way too young and pretty to be a believable police chief. Liu Yang is a nice eye-washer, but her character is just horribly written. Kenny Wong hardly has anything to do. And what's up with the soft-focus on every single shot of Qu Ying? Why her and no one else? Who makes these kinds of decisions??

I said before that I feel like watching more Cantonese films. But it's stuff like this that reminds me why the Hong Kong film industry, that once turned out some of the most terrifically entertaining movies ever made, is now a shadow of its former glory. (And it's not even really Wong Jing's fault; at least he's still making movies and making money, and keeping the industry alive.) No, it isn't worth braving this kind of crap just to garner more international hits for my blog - and it certainly isn't worth sharing a theatre with annoying, inconsiderate, and downright assholic cinemagoers, who for some reason tend to gravitate to Wong Jing movies. Seriously, even a typical Malay movie audience is better-behaved; at least they're there to actually enjoy the movie.

NEXT REVIEW: 2 Hati 1 Jiwa
Expectations: hey, a movie directed by a guy with his own Facebook fan page can't be that bad, right? *snicker*

Update: Yikes. Looks like 2 Hati 1 Jiwa has ended its run in the Klang Valley; I'd have to go to Sungei Petani to catch it. So, no review then. Terrible loss, I'm sure.

NEXT REVIEW: Lu Pikirlah Sendiri
Expectations: if it sucks as bad as I expect it to, I already have a snarky headline for my review all prepared

3 comments: said...

ya will watch this soon!
nanged u. nang this to share ur thoughts towards Zambry's victory....

McGarmott said...

Huh, you got a nuffnang spammer.

Anyway, lucky for you this week there are so many movies out. So many, in fact, and out of 9 new releases I actually want to see 7 of them! I even planned it out and turns out it is just about possible to squeeze all 7 movies in a single Saturday based on 1U's schedule (starting from 11 am and ending at 3 am)!

It's just too bad I'm leaving KL this weekend. Bugger! Or else I would've done it.

For the record, I'm planning to watch (if not all at once, then at some point) Percy Jackson, Wolfman, Valentine's Day, 72 Tenants Of Prosperity, 14 Blades, True Legend and Little Big Soldier.

TMBF said...

I'm planning to watch most of those too. Hope I can find the time. :P