She shi 32
cast: Wu Chien-lien (Ng Sin-Lin), Lau Ching-Wan, Hang Sang Woo,
|Reviewed by Shelly Kraicer
Not too long ago, hybrid films seemed to be one of the HK industry's peculiar strengths: apparent genre mis-matches like Fong Sai Yuk,Treasure Hunt, and God of Gamblers worked, by some sort of movie magic that seemed freely available to HK movie makers.
Today, the experiments continue, but with mixed success at best. Take Beyond Hypothermia, an assasin's-gunplay plus improbable-love-story mix starring Wu Chien-lien, Lau Ching-Wan, and a whole lot of Korean money and weaponry. This is former John Woo protege Patrick Leung Pak-Kin's second film. A female assasin (WCL), whose body temperature is several degrees below normal (don't ask, it didn't seem to have any more than symbolic significance) becomes embroiled in Korean gang violence, and is set up for one last hit by her female controller.
At what should be its core is a fascinating, unorthodox love story between steely, fiercely repressed Wu Chien-lien and an affably goofy and outgoing Lau Ching-Wan. He runs an outdoor evening noodle stand, having abandoned his life in the triads long ago. She is a professional killing machine (reminiscent of Leon Lai's "Killer" in Fallen Angels): after her assignments, dispatched with technological flare and emotional ultra-cool, she needs to decompress: her comfort food is a bowl of steaming noodles from Lau's shop, near her home. Inevitably their lives entwine, she finds a warmth and connection with him that she has lost in her own life, and sparks fly.
But the mechanism of this entanglement is fascinating and wholely original.Lau Ching-Wan manages, with infinite patience, to reawaken Wu's dormant emotional life by reanimating its source in her mind: a childhood whose pain she has blotted out.
In one stunning montage, we witness how Wu's character blossoms. As she takes a series of pictures of herself, her expression evolves from icy introversion to childlike joy. This is depicted in a tightly cut sequence of shots that illuminate in a finely graduated series her face and body coming to life. It's a remarkable sequence that only an actress with Wu Chien-lien's skill and technique could manage. She is consistently fine to watch in this film,in a very tough role, one which forces her for the most part to indicate a tumultuous emotional life through the tiniest gestures and glances.
All the while performing inside the shell of an acrobatic human killing machine. In an gunplay-action flick which is intended to impress us with the virtuosity of its stunts, mayhem and picturesque violence. The most notable set-piece involves a whole crowd of Korean gangsters and a fleet of cars: the former are knocked around like ping pong balls by the latter:it's very convincing and weirdly spectacular. And here is the other half of the film genre hybrid: Korean production money has bought a sometimes shockingly gory, excessively lengthy virtuoso action film that wraps up and threatens to smother the romance. As a friend of mine suggested, this film doesn't know just who its intended audience is.
Director Patrick Leung has much to offer the gunplay genre: some freshand vigourous cinematography, and a rich colour palette even more striking than in his Somebody Up There Likes Me. But the action sequences go on too long, and the plot seriously sags in its middle section, set in Seoul. This is cast with Korean film stars who presumably were mixed in to make the project more bankable in Korea (where Wu Chien-lien apparently has an enthusiastic following).
An impressive technical machine, this movie, containing (but not enhancing) a gem of a performance by one of the most promising Chinese actresses ofher generation. Here's hoping Wu Chien-lien starts to get meatier roles, in films that show her to better advantage.
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