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RULE # 1 (HK/Singapore)

  Publicity Stills of "Rule #1"
(Courtesy from GV)

In Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles
Director: Kelvin Tong
Cast: Ekin Cheng, Shawn Yue, Fiona Xie, Stephanie Che, Liu Wan, Bill Liu
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Released By: GV/Mediacorp Raintree/Scorpio East
Rating: NC-16

Opening Day: 13 March 2008



RULE #1 is a horror-thriller about cops. There are no helpless female victims here. Instead, the prey are policemen who, despite possessing guns, find themselves at their wits’ end when confronted by bloodthirsty ghouls and spirits. RULE #1 takes place in an unnamed Asian city and tells the story about two cops - a rookie and veteran. As the body count rises and our two protagonists find themselves ankle-deep in blood, themes of bonding, faith, heroism and betrayal are explored. As good battles evil, the line is drawn somewhere between the truth and lies. This is no man’s land. This is gray.

Movie Review:

Being in the media industry, there’s always someone out there you want to look up to. For this reviewer, it was Singapore director Kelvin Tong. Having met in him person on a few occasions, he found the bespectacled filmmaker to be intelligent, articulate and opinionated. Besides, he loves the director’s Eating Air (1999), The Maid (2005) and even Love Story (2006), which some people overly self-indulgent.

Then Tong made Men in White (2007). Despite being mildly amusing, the badly panned supernatural comedy made this reviewer doubt his liking for the local director. Then Tong made this supernatural horror thriller. And this reviewer is relieved again, because Tong has shown that he is back in form.

Shot entirely in Hong Kong, the Tong-written movie tells the story of two policemen who can, in no way surprising here, see ghosts in their course of work. One particular case changes the two men’s lives completely as they hunt down a vengeful spirit out to bring about bloodshed.

Like any other winning Asian horror films, this one scores in terms of scares and chills. There are some truly scary and disturbing images that will leave you uneasily queasy. The perfectly executed sound effects and creepy music score (Joe Ng, Alex Oh) will make you grab the edge of your seats. Having made another successful horror movie before this, Tong knows how to grip your senses and hold it tight, giving you little time to gasp for air. The thrilling ride is complemented by competent cinematography. Filmed beautifully at several run-down but strikingly arresting locations in Hong Kong, this is definitely one of the better local movies which allow its stunning visuals do the storytelling.

The two male protagonists are played by Shawn Yue and Ekin Cheng, who play their roles of a rookie and a veteran very comfortably. Yue’s vigor comes through nicely and Cheng’s world-weariness adds a nice human touch to the horror movie. Watch out for the scene where the two men banter about whether they will shoot the next person who walks through the door towards the end of the movie – an example of great scriptwriting coupled with wonderful acting to showcase the casualness amidst the uncomfortable tension. Fiona Xie plays Yue’s girlfriend with her signature doe-eyed look while Stephanie Che throws in some emotions as Cheng’s neglected wife.

At the heart of this picture is a well-developed story which boasts of a decent twist at the end. The message to take home may not be as in-your-face as other moralistic shows out there, but you can be assured that this is a thinking man’s movie, as well as one which tugs at your heartstrings. The human condition is finely explored with Tong’s sure-handed directing, and that is definitely a winning factor of this picture. To say that this 95-minute is a straightforward horror thriller would be wrong – it is a human drama at heart as well.

As this reviewer walked out of the theatre, he knew that the movie has worked on all levels when he couldn’t stop thinking about how (in a way, affectionately depressing) the movie concluded. He also knew that Tong is someone he can look up to in the media industry again.

Movie Rating:

(A well-executed genre film which boasts of fine writing and good acting)

Review by John Li


. Men In White (2007)

. The Haunted School (2007)

. The Maid (2004)

. 1942 DVD (2005)

. Forest of Death DVD (2007)

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