Friday, May 21, 2010


Remember Harry Caul, Gene Hackman's character in Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974)? Well imagine Harry and his team decided to go beyond mere surveillance and actually worked as a hit squad, murdering people by way of elaborately planned and untraceable "accidents." Now imagine Harry and his guys are Chinese and you've worked your way around to the inventive psychological crime thriller that is Accident (2009). Produced by Johnnie To and directed by Cheang Pou Soi, Accident blends the narrative arc of a heist film (big job goes horribly awry) with the paranoia and meticulousness of The Conversation, throwing in enough twists and turns to keep you guessing throughout.

The crew: Brain (Louis Koo, above), Fatty (Lam Suet), Uncle (Stanly Fung), and, for want of a character name, Hottie (Michelle Ye). They're good. Very good. We see a bit of their handiwork in the opening sequence, wherein they maneuver their target into "accidentally" offing himself. In public, in broad daylight (and quite bloodily, I might add). Later, Brain is upset because Uncle left a cigarette butt at the scene. Yeah, he's that anal. But I guess you have to be in his line of work. Soon they're on to the next job, and it's here that the well-oiled machine begins to break down. Plus, it looks like another faux-accident hit squad has set their sights on Brain ...

Director Cheang Pou Soi worked under Johnnie To as an assistant before donning the director's cap some ten years ago, and while there's a confusing moment now and again, Accident nevertheless delivers the goods as a more cerebral, insular and subtle Hong Kong crime film than you might expect. Recommended.

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