Hong Kong Action
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16th Feb 06
A troubled cop meets a woman who is the spitting image of his long lost girlfriend. Unfortunately she's married to the lawyer of a corrupt businessman. Mayhem ensues.
Everyone loves a good Hong Kong action movie, that’s official. Cops, robbers, triads, car chases, double crosses - they’re the clichés and that’s what we expect to see with every new release. And that’s what we get too; ever since Johnny Woo went and killed the Jackie Chan style karate cop genre with the ballistic delights of The Killer and Hard Boiled, everyone’s got in on the old gun-totting action to the point where the market’s almost saturated by the stuff. It’s a shame too; while Korean’s are pushing the boundaries a little more than they should (Chan-Wook Park take a bow) and those crazy Thai’s have put the stunt industry back 20 years by reviving the bone-crunching crash-mat style of chop-socky action, what are the Hong Kong crowd doing? Still doing diving two-gun combos and having what’s now been labelled ‘Tarantino stand-offs’ on a regular basis? Well, if Divergence is anything to go by, yes.
Divergence is basically the story of Suen, a former TV celebrity cop whose career has been on the downward slide since his girlfriend Fong completely disappeared, nearly ten years ago. And to make matters worse, he’s just allowed a witness in a high profile money laundering case to get assassinated while in his care. So, following a lead that the case may be connected to millionaire business man Mr. Yiu, Suen soon comes into contact with Yiu’s lawyer To and his wife Amy. But this is where things go really pear-shaped; Amy bears an unbelievably spooky likeness to Suen’s missing girlfriend and, under the pretence that it’s part of his investigation, begins to tail them on a regular basis.
Anyway, while all that’s going on the assassin responsible for the witness’s murders starts to take an unhealthy interest in Suen’s investigation. A chance meeting leads to the assassin implying to Suen that he knows something about what happened to Fong and the connection with To and Amy. Soon enough, answers turn to questions. Why is the assassin still involving himself in a finished job? Who’s paying him? And, most importantly, is Amy actually Fong, the long lost love of Suen’s life?
Like most Hong Kong action movies, this film works on a couple of levels. To start with, you have the action quota that films like this demand as a prerequisite, and secondly you have the character and story development. Traditionally the latter tends to take a back seat in this scene, and that’s what happens here as they go for the ‘less is more’ school of film making thought. A great many scenes involve lingering shots of the cast self-reflecting on whatever their particular melancholy predicament is; Suen’s feeling sorry for himself because he misses his girlfriend so, To feels guilty about being a lawyer to an obviously corrupt businessman, the assassin character feels guilty because he knows a lot more about Fong’s disappearance than he’s letting on, and Amy is depressed because some mad copper guy keeps following her around everywhere. Long story short, everyone’s fed up about something, and watching a long montage of melancholic dilemmas can be quite tiring.
Thankfully there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s the action quota. All Hong Kong action movies, by their very definition, have to provide a few set-piece highlights and it’s here that Divergence does really well. The initial assassination is handled with the kind of style and verve that the Hong Kong scene does so well, including some fantastic bullet eye views as it chases a moving car. Similarly the first lengthy on-foot chase sequence between Suen and the assassin is as relentless as it is thrilling, culminating in a great bare knuckle fight in a fish market, which involves the protagonists punching and kicking each other while simultaneously trying to suffocate each other with tight plastic bags. Similarly the film also has its fair share of car chases, one involving some speeded up bumper-cam camera trickery that cannot fail to impress no matter how jaded you are with the Hong Kong action scene.
But is it enough? Well, ultimately yes; an average drama with great action sequences does make for a better than average film, I suppose. In that respect I have no qualms about thoroughly recommending this as a rental or as a buyer for you real action junkies out there. But for the rest of you, there are more involving examples of this genre out there, and you might want to check those out first.
Versions Just come out on region 2 uncut. So there you go.
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