Director: Wi Ding Ho
Cast: Austin Lin, Moon Lee, Annie Chen, JC Lin, Ding Ning, Pipi Yao
Runtime: 2 hrs 7 mins
Rating: R21 (Some Homosexual Content and Sexual Scenes)
Released By: Lighthouse Film Distribution
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/terrorizers2021
Opening Day: 19 November 2021
Synopsis: Terrorizers centres on a group of young lost souls in pre-Covid Taipei. Through a public slashing incident, the story follows four characters who tangle up in a multi-narrative tale of love, desire, envy and revenge. Terrorizers reflects that the suspect of the public slashing is not the only culprit but the society as a whole; when tragedy happens, everyone is responsible, and no one is an outsider.
It is best not to read too much about this Taiwanese film before stepping into the theatre. For the first 20 minutes or so, this 127 minute film paints a pretty picture of two young people falling in love. You wonder where the story is headed. Is it going to be a saccharine sweet tale of the greatness of romance? Is it going to be a drama about how two individuals fall apart after their honeymoon period? Or is there a morality tale behind Ho Wi Ding’s latest work, after impressing critics with Pinoy Sunday (2010) and Cities of Last Things (2018)?
Suddenly, a public slashing incident takes place in Taipei’s train station and viewers are thrown off track. The film then plays out a series of events that happened before or after that shocking moment, and when the end credits roll, the entire story would have illustrated a dark yet melancholic side of society. What’s even more poignant is that the characters involved are young folks who are courageously living their lives, which further emphasises the impulsiveness that is seemingly reckless yet admirable at the same time.
We get to know Ming Liang (Austin Lin), a young man who is socially awkward and into games which employ virtual reality. He may or may not have developed an unhealthy habit that will lead to disaster. Then there is his roommate Yu Fang (Moon Lee), who is dealing with family problems and trying to get her life together. She is the female half of the couple we see at the beginning of the film, and the dashing dude is Xiao Zhang (JC Lin), an aspiring chef who is prepared to put in effort to make his newfound relationship work.
Then there is Monica (Annie Chen), who is trying to erase her frowned upon past by venturing into serious acting. She desperately wants to be recognised on stage and on screen. Elsewhere, there is a teenage cosplayer who is always on the lookout to try exciting things. Rounding up the ensemble of characters is a mature masseuse (Ding NIng) who gives life lessons on top of special services.
Ho masterfully intertwines the characters’ storylines and presents the film in a non linear manner. It is like putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. Audiences shouldn’t have too much problem figuring out the film when details begin to shed light. Instead of saying that the story development is predictable, it may be more noteworthy to see the multi faceted aspects of why a certain incident would have happened. It is a study of human character and how the society has shaped it.
The actors deliver commendable performances, with Chen and Lee garnering Best Supporting Actress and Best Newcomer nominations at 2021 Golden Horse Awards. The film has also gotten nods in the Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Effects categories.
It is also interesting to note that the film has the same title as Edward Yang’s 1986 classic about a group of outcasts in Taipeigrappling with loneliness. Likewise, the characters in Ho’s film are fighting the same social sentiments and finding their place in the bigger scheme of thing called life.
(A thoughtful piece of Taiwan cinema which sheds light on the seemingly reckless yet admirable human spirit in youths)
Review by John Li