VIRTUAL RECALL DVD (异空危情) (2010)

SYNOPSIS: Hong Kong, the present day. At the luxurious Yee Low Mental Sanatorium, psychiatrist Xiao Tingqin (Tang Yifei) is assigned the case of "special" patient Sum Liu-sheung (Cherrie Ying), who claims to live both in the real world and 12 parallel universes, and appears to have special powers. As soon as they meet, Sum starts playing mind-games with Xiao, whose one-year-old marriage to independently wealthy policeman Zhen Shanlin (Stephen Fung) is already under serious strain, due to her workaholia and her aversion to being touched by him. Sum introduces Xiao to the scientific concept of "worm-holes", through which one can travel in time and to parallel universes, and stirs memories in Xiao of her past relationship both with Zhen and her first love, Ji Lü. Zhen's friendship with gourmet-food shop-owner Gu Xilin has also put further strain on her marriage, and one day, meeting them in the street, she starts to wonder whether Sum has enabled her to experience parallel versions of her life.


There are bad movies, and then there are movies like ‘Virtual Recall’. Based on a Chinese novel by Law Wing-Sum, this psychological thriller with elements of science fiction is so ineptly bad you wonder just how the stars involved could possibly be signed up for it. And we’re not talking unknown B-list actors that need a paycheck at the end of the day- there’s Hong Kong actor Stephen Fung, who once had a promising directorial career with ‘Enter the Phoenix’ and ‘House of Fury’; there’s Cherrie Ying, a regular supporting player in Johnnie To/ Wai Kar Fai comedies; and then there’s Tang Yi-Fei (ok, her last work was Wong Jing’s awful ‘Future X-Cops’ so this can’t exactly be considered a step down).

Anyhow, Tang plays a psychologist, Dr Xiao Tingqin, at a sanatorium whose patient Sum Liu-sheung (Ying) tells her of parallel worlds and tries to control her mind to play Russian Roulette. But it turns out that Tingqin is no saint herself- her one-year marriage to a decorated policeman Zhen Shanlin (Fung) is breaking apart at the seams, and the two don’t even stay in the same apartment apart from hosting mutual friends for dinner celebrations. Basically, the incoherent plot has to do with the mind games that Liu-sheung subjects Tingqin to, confusing her by leading her to think that she is in some parallel dimension or another.

Frankly, we can’t be bothered- especially not when director and co-writer Larry Cheung has absolutely no idea himself. Right from the start, Cheung displays an extraordinary ability at unintentional humour, so much so that you admire the actors for being able to keep a straight face throughout the film. Like most Chinese directors, Cheung fails spectacularly at both the psychological thriller and the sci-fi genre, and his clumsy attempt to meld the two together into one just makes the unfolding tragedy even more unbearable. Cheung also lacks Wong Jing’s crude talent at making trash look good, so the film, which moves along with absolutely zero narrative momentum, with its abundant flaws are so plainly apparent.

It’s not surprising with such clunky direction that even Stephen and Cherrie’s combined efforts can’t save the film. Both look as if they are merely clocking in their time, leaving the heavy lifting to Tang Yi-fei. The Chinese actress bares a surprising amount of skin for the role (at least for a Chinese movie), but even her titillating antics can’t overcome the film’s sheer tedium to register a pulse. And there is really no reason to give a damn, for ‘Virtual Recall’ might as well have been titled ‘Virtual Amnesia’- for that was exactly what we wanted after sitting through every godawful 90 minutes of it.


Just a trailer and a photo gallery of stills from the movie.


The Dolby Digital 2.0 works just fine for the film, and since half the actors speak in Chinese and the other in Cantonese, it’s a toss-up between either audio track. Visuals are clear, but the film’s own visuals lack polish.



Review by Gabriel Chong