If you've been keeping track of the film reviews on this blog, you might remember Pou-Soi Cheang from his previous film Shamo. He's slowly establishing himself as one of my favorite directors, so with much anticipation I was looking forward to Accident [Yi Ngoi], his latest. Cheang was nice enough not to disappoint.
Accident was made under the caring wings of Johnny To. Not only did he produce, but the film was also co-released by his very own Milkyway. Lately To's doing a really good job of turning his production company's logo into a true seal of quality. With his own recent output and a quality selection of films like Eye In The Sky I'm more and more drawn to films coming from the Milkyway stables.
With Accident Cheang leaves his more cult-oriented background and takes on a sub genre that's been gaining popularity in recent years. The Brain is the leader of a small gang of sophisticated crooks. They are calculated, immaculate, precise and most importantly, extremely good at what they do. In essence they are a team of killers for hire, but they specialize in cases that need to look like accidents, erasing all suspicion of a real murder.
Half of the fun is seeing the murders planned and executed. Rather than aim for action and grit, Cheang tries for a more stylish approach. The build-ups are slow and well-planned, the characters silent and pensive. And even when the story twists halfway through the film and it appears they are being set up themselves, the style does not change much, though a sense of urgency is added to the film.
Cheang loves darkness. Throughout the whole film (and also apparent in his earlier films) he tries to fill each frame with dark corners, hidden alleyways or blind spots. Accident is not as colorful as his previous films though, reducing the contrast and creating an ever darker cinematic world. There are little shots or scenes that jump out, but as a whole the cinematography and styling is very strong and extremely consistent.
The soundtrack too is nice, supporting the events on screen in a rather subdued yet still leading manner. After the end credits have faded it's hard to remember particular songs, but the overall quality of the soundtrack will stick nonetheless. The acting is overall strong too, with a splendid performance of Louis Koo as lead actor. He was probably chosen because Simon Yam was busy or on holidays, but Koo manages remarkably well. The supporting cast is superb too, with the ever-present Suet Lam taking on another good role. I like that man.
While the first and second act of the film are pretty straight-forward and predictable, the ending takes a rather surprising turn. It's the expected twist, but with a twist. I actually loved those final minutes, as they left me quite stunned like few other films have managed. I'm sure it's a hit and miss affair and most people will be quite unaffected by these final events, yet it's remarkable how simple an ending can be without losing its strength, even gaining from its simplicity.
Accident is a very good film. Not really excelling in anything particular, but strong and stylish in every department, forming a very solid and tight whole. Visually consistent, great characters and acting, a strong soundtrack and an excellent plot. It's all you've come to expect from a modern To film, but directed with the flair and personality of Pou-Soi Cheang. Highly recommended.