by Del Harvey
A truly exceptional crime drama which teases with the supernatural, Double Vision is worth adding to your Hong Kong film collection.
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A series of seemingly unrelated murders has the Taiwan police baffled. A Christian priest is disemboweled while still alive; a corporate executive is found seated at his 17th-floor desk apparently drowned and frozen to death, even though he had not left the office all morning; a young woman is found dead by smoke inhalation and with burn marks all over her body in her untouched apartment.
The detective in charge of the case, Li Feng (Leon Dai), enlists the aid of good friend and former top investigator Huo-tu (Tony Leung). Huo-tu has been working minor cases for the past two years since his involvement in a case which exposed a number of corrupt cops within the force. The last straw came when one of the corrupt cops took Huo-tu’s daughter Mei-Mei (Wei-Han Huang) captive. His gun misfired and the bullet grazed her skull, and Mei-Mei has not spoken since. Huo-tu blames himself for the enraged cop’s actions. He is so distraught that he has taken to sleeping in his office at the station. His wife, Ching-fang (Rene Liu), visits with Mei-Mei from time to time, asking him to come home. Huo-tu even ignores her when she begins to drop off copies of her divorce papers.
Huo-tu’s life changes when the superiors enlist the help of the FBI, whose top “mindhunter” Kevin Richter (David Morse) is in Taiwan to train at the academy. After studying the crime scenes, Richter reveals evidence which ties these disparate cases together. Soon he has uncovered a scheme by a local group of religious cultists. Eventually he is the catalyst which will bring about change in Huo-tu’s life, for better or worse.
I was quite surprised by this film. The acting is superb. Tony Leung (A Better Tomorrow III, God of Gamblers 2) provides deft characterization of the depressed inspector such that we both are intrigued by him but can’t help feeling sad for him at the same time. His situation is entirely understandable yet we still want to shake him out of his self-absorbed path of destruction. David Morse (TV’s Hack, The Green Mile) shows considerable talent as the foreigner in a foreign land whose unique scientific skills and insights give him confidence even in isolation. Rene Liu’s portrayal of Huo-tu’s long-suffering wife is spot on perfect. And Leon Dai’s cop/best friend is equally convincing.
The screenplay, by Kuo-fu Chen and Chao-Bin Su, is a fine example of tight pacing and near-perfect plot development. The cinematography, by Arthur Wong (Big Bullet, 2000 A.D.) is beautiful and adds an entire new dimension to the overall story. Kuo-fu Chen’s direction keeps the pace moving smoothly and the transitions seamless. With all elements working so harmoniously, Double Vision is a near-flawless motion picture.
Even if you can’t stand subtitles, you should give Double Vision a chance. It is one of the best films I’ve seen all year. And it’s available at your local video barn.
Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly, a devout Chicago Bears fan, loves Grant Park in any season, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.
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