November 28, 2010

Overheard (Felix Chong and Alan Mak, 2009)

Thanks to Love in a Puff, I’m looking forward to Overheard. Also from Hong Kong, from one of the directors of Infernal Affairs, Alan Mak, I don’t even bother to read the synopsis online before buying my ticket. By the pictures, I can already surmise that it’s a star-studded cat-and-mouse psychological thriller, in the vein of Infernal Affairs.

Tasked with the surveillance of CEOs rumored to be manipulating the price of their stock for money, three police officers get in over their heads when they overhear inside information and decide to invest in the company for their own benefit. As a fable on greed and corruption, Overheard starts out well enough. It’s possible at every moment for the three officers to stop their unethical actions, but they never do. Plus, we don’t deal here with corrupt cops but tortured men pressed by circumstance and motivated by good intentions. But, as it’s usually the case with corruption, an act leads to another and can quickly overwhelm. What is unrealistic here in Mak and Chong’s fable is the high degree to which the police officers get punished by their circumstance. It is morally simplistic to map out the characters vertiginous descent as abruptly as it’s done in the film. Close to its end, every plot point feels forced, every emotion manufactured.

Overheard, which started as a worthy addition to the genre, with magnificent performances from its lead actors, ends on a melodramatic cop-out in which the filmmakers forgo the story’s more thrilling aspects for their unsatisfying, fabricated morality. A shame, really.