Director: Law Wing Cheong
Cast: Anthony Wong, Ritchie Jen, Janice Man, Maggie Cheung, Candy Lo, Lam Lei, Jun Kung
RunTime: 1 hr 33 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Clover FIlms
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence and Drug Use)
Official Website: http://www.mediaasia.com/punished
Opening Day: 16 June 2011
Synopsis: When a tycoon’s daughter is found dead after being rescued from abduction, he appoints his ex-bodyguard to avenge her death by not only hunting down and exterminating everyone responsible for the abduction but also videotaping the process of each “execution”. Instead of feeling liberated, the tycoon becomes more perturbed on watching the tapes, lest one day he shall get retribution himself for all the killings.
In the end, the ex-bodyguard manages to track down the mastermind behind the abduction, who turns out to be the female personal assistant of the tycoon’s daughter. The tycoon determines to carry out the final execution himself, only to discover she is the mother of a 2-year-old girl. Will he pull the trigger and make an orphan out of this innocent soul? That is the question.
Admit it: Life’s one big mess and sometimes, it takes a brutally honest movie to remind us of this cruel truth. Those familiar with Hong Kong independent film production company Milkyway Image’s movies would know that its signature films often paint a dark portrayal of human nature. Films like Election (2005), Exiled (2006) and Vengeance (2009) are stark reminders of how extreme man can get in desperate times. These Johnnie To directed films have made a name for themselves, and any mention of this Hong Kong auteur in a film’s credit list would bring high expectations.
After serving as associate director on To’s other works like Running on Karma (2003) and Breaking News (2004), Law Wing Cheong (Hooked on You, Tactical Unit – The Code) directs his fifth solo feature film. With To on the team as producer and the acclaimed Anthony Wong (Turning Point, Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen) as his leading man, it’s really difficult not to have high expectations for this revenge movie.
Wong plays a ruthless tycoon who faces disgruntlements from the working class. As fate would have it, his spoilt brat of a daughter is kidnapped and killed by cold blooded abductors. Distressed over the overbearing grief, the merciless businessman sends his bodyguard to avenge his daughter’s death. As the body count goes up, he realises that this may not be the satisfaction he is after.
Like Milkyway’s famed productions, this one will attract fanboys who enjoy edgy themes which explore the grey areas of retribution, integrity and equality. Violence and brutality are also showcased in this movie charged with mental anguish and rage. We are not forgetting the film’s political statements about Hong Kong’s jarring class differences. Expect to plots involving intimidated villages who are forced to have their land confiscated, as well as a teenage girl who is suspected of staging her own kidnapping to pocket a huge amount of ransom.
Oh, despite all these shady business, no police seems to be around to arrest the baddies and put them into jail.
Efficiently shot with no emphasis on visual flair or style, this production approaches its storyline by presenting the sequence of events in non chronological order. The action scenes are also not particularly spectacular, when compared to other high budget Hong Kong blockbusters. This may in turn leave some viewers unimpressed, especially if they stepped into the theatres expecting a signature To revenge movie.
Thankfully, the cast is its main draw. Wong is perfect in his role as the vicious magnate who will stop at nothing to get his dealings done. The award winning actor knows exactly when and how to emote the appropriate expressions without spouting a slew of dialogue. Richie Jen (Law’s leading man in his directorial debut 2 Become 1) plays Wong’s bodyguard. While he pales in comparison beside the versatile actor, he delivers a decent performance as the bodyguard with underworld connections. Other familiar faces in the ensemble cast include TVB actress Maggie Cheung (Crossing Hennessy), singer Candy Lo (The Heavenly Kings) and veteran Charlie Cho (Police Story), who gets our sympathy vote as the tycoon’s right hand man.
The characters in the movie are not particularly likeable – how can you find yourself empathising with a pitiless businessman, a cold bodyguard, a spoilt druggie or the numerous greedy kidnappers? Yet, there is something which keeps you engaged as the 93 minute movie explores the sophisticated human psychology.
(Human morality and principles are on display in this efficiently made Milkyway production)
Review by John Li