Director: Herman Yau
Cast: Gordon Lam, Andy Hui, Janice Man, Jacky Cai, Wilfred Lau, Coco Chan, Steve Chan, Candice Yu
Runtime: 1 hr 28 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Some Sexual Scenes And Violence)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 3 November 2016
Synopsis: The beautiful yet naive Tsang (Janice Man) has second thoughts about her arranged marriage with the most eligible bachelor in town (Lam Ka-tung) because she is secretly in love with the dog-loving math prodigy Fong (Andy Hui). One night, she is attacked on her way home. She wakes up and finds herself trapped in a room and tied to a bed naked. She was raped but managed to escape…
Coming from a director who bemoans the lack of film noir thrillers in Hong Kong, one would expect Nessun Dorma to be an excellent film noir thriller that has all the right elements in place. Sadly, Herman Yau, the director who helmed Nessun Dorma, does not walk the talk and Nessun Dorma is a film that tries too hard to be smart but ends up more schlocky than sophisticated.
Yau fails badly at creating an ominous atmosphere and only succeeds in freaking the audiences out with a loud thumping sound every time an overly creepy security guard with a badly scarred face appears (it is almost as if that sound effect is the guard’s signature character music of sorts). The only real reason why the audience gets freaked out in this case is due to the loudness of the sound and not because the character poses as any kind of threats. The red herrings that the script-writer throw in – the abovementioned security guard and a driver- are too obviously creepy to qualify as possible candidates responsible for the abduction of the female protagonist, Jasmine (played by Janice Man).
The abduction, which sets the stage for the mystery element of the movie to unfold, raises many questions. Despite the abduction lasting for a couple of days, right up to the eve of Jasmine’s wedding to wealthy business playboy, Vincent (played by Gordon Lam), no one seems to realize Jasmine’s disappearance or is concerned about how highly strung she has become. Convinced that she has been raped, Jasmine continues with her wedding and plans to marry Vincent so as to protect the illustrious reputations of both families and to feed her mother’s vanity. Vincent, being the stereotypical rich playboy cad that he is, shows no sympathy when he learns of Jasmine’s ordeal and promptly beats his wife up for deceiving him that she was ‘pure’ when she has clearly been ‘tainted’. Rather than contact Jasmine when she is at the lowest point, her captor, who seems to have sight of every development in Jasmine’s life, decides to contact her only after she has made up her mind to leave Vincent and be together with her one true love – mathematics genius Fong Mo-Chit who miraculously overcame childhood autism to become a well-adjusted and socially adept adult.
After a moment’s hesitation and lament over being made the scapegoat for Vincent’s terrible ways that has clearly ignite her captor’s desire for revenge, Jasmine signs up for her captor’s plan to bring Vincent down and relishes in the idea of causing Vincent’s downfall. It is incredible how the meek and fragile Jasmine chooses to cast her lot with the captor who chose to punish her for the wrongdoing of a cad who she just happened to marry. More amazing is how Jasmine instantly becomes a strong woman who relishes in the thought of torturing and inflicting harm upon Vincent – the same man who she could only whimper in front of even as he beat her up for being a victim.
The movie also attempts to bolster its artistic cred by dropping blatant references to Puccini’s Turandot. However, unlike Turandot which has a clear message about love and which anchors its characters with strong motives, Nessun Dorma is badly let down by its characters’ indecipherable motives which completely change to suit the scriptwriter’s whims. The only character whose motive is consistent is Vincent but he is written lazily as a stereotypical rich playboy whose only motive is to satisfy his selfish hedonistic desires.
Ultimately, this movie’s attempts to be clever completely backfire and it ends up more of a schlock than a sophisticated piece.
(Rather than elevate the selection of Hong Kong’s film noir thrillers, Nessun Dorma does just the opposite. If you are looking for a good Chinese/Mandarin film noir thriller, go watch (or rewatch) Kelvin Tong’s Rule No.1 instead)
Review by Katrina Tee