November 28, 2010

Accident (Pou-soi Cheang, 2009)

I almost missed my showing of Accident, hanging out on Saint-Laurent with a group of friends. Concordia’s Hall Theater is full to capacity, no surprise seeing the popularity of Hong Kong films in Montreal for the last 15 years. Although, mirroring the drop in production in Hong Kong recently, their distribution in North American movie theaters has dwindled, the energy is still here, the public always open to new offerings from the island. This is my second Hong Kong film this year, after Ip Man 2, and I have a few more to watch before I’m through.

Produced by Milky Way, Johnny To’s production company, Hong Kong’s most interesting director/producer, his company adopting a very efficient production chain-inspired quality-centric approach to its business, the movie starts out well enough to peak my curiosity. A team of Chinese assassins, whose specialty is to disguise their hits as accidents, are hired for a routine contract. But, not everything goes according to plan and their leader Ho suspects that their accident may not be one.. In the scenes where we see the assassins painstakingly map out the “accident’”, the movie is at its best. However, it soon devolves into a psychological thriller, a too simplistic whodunit, where the director tries to dazzle us with his technical mastery and film knowledge, with allusions to everything from Lang’s M to Coppola’s The Conversation with Hitchcock for good measure. By the time a convoluted Deus Ex Machina, a sudden eclipse, occurs at the denouement, I’ve already mentally checked out for a while, and I’m elaborating an exit strategy to get back to Saint-Laurent and my friends as fast as possible.

As soon as the screen switches to credits, I hurriedly leap out of my seat towards the exit, noticing the generalized air of confusion and disappointment of the crowd. On my way out, a woman bursts out in applause, turns to her company and half-heartedly praises the movie. “It was pretty good”, she remarks at her skeptic companion, manifestly disavowing her false statement as it leaves her lips. That’s when I understand the full extent of Accident’s obtuse pretension and eagerly look forward to the other Hong Kong showings to clean my film pallet.