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4 Apr 2012


Nick Cheung and Simon Yam's talents are evident in Nightfall despite its weak script.

Original Title: 大追捕

Director: Chow Hin Yeung

Language: Mandarin

Screenplay: Christine To

Cast: Nick Cheung, Simon Yam, Michael Wong, Shawn Dou, Janice Man

As it stands, the Hong Kong film industry is beginning to recover from its disastrous fortunes in the 90s. Its best hope lies in the Milkyway production house, where Johnnie Toh, like a Renaissance master running a studio, churns out masterful noirs with the help of his apprentices. The top noir stars of this era happen to be Simon Yam and Nick Cheung, and Nightfall is a rare film that unites the two together in a police procedural that mimics the best of Milkway's efforts.

A word of caution though: Nightfall is also the sophomore film of director Chow Hin Yeung, whose debut psycho-thriller Murderer raised heckles instead of hairs on arms, thanks to a script that had a badly thought out twist in the middle. I'd further warn you that the same scriptwriter has paired up with Chow yet again for this film effort.

The stage is nicely set up for a noir mystery when an opera singer is found mutilated and burnt beyond recognition at the bottom of a cliff. It is clearly a premeditated crime of revenge. Our stubborn cop living in a perpetual existential crisis happens to be the only one suited for the task of solving the case because he never lets go of mysteries. And of course the stage is set for a cat and mouse chase between cop and suspect, and an intellectual game where the cop must figure out how the murder was done and what else might happen next. All this is well and good, and very promising.

Nightfall does have an interesting premise but its flawed execution is all too evident and all too easily traced to the weaknesses of the Chow-To pairing. But then you are introduced to the details of the mystery, which involves baroque, over-the-top devices like unfatherly affections, Elektra complexes, a chief suspect who went bonkers and mutilated himself during his stint in prison because he was innocent, and lots and lots of overacting by everyone involved – so much you fear they could chew up the entire flora of the planet a few times over. Yam has intense staring contests with Cheung, who does a facsimile of The Scream whenever he hears classical music – no doubt inspired by his hatred of the opera singer, who gets all loud and shouty and nasty when he's drunk.

For a genre like noir, you don't really want to overdo things by this much, not to the extent of the lurid melodrama in opera. While the basic story of Nightfall is sound, its execution and script remain problematic, and we feel it's high time Chow Hin Yeung and Christine Toh call it splits.

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