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 Publicity Stills of "Confession Of Pain"
(Courtesy from Media Asia & Shaw)

Genre: Crime/Thriller
Director: Andrew Lau and Alan Mak
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Shu Qi, Chapman To
RunTime: 1 hr 51 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: PG
Official Website: www.confessionofpain.com

Opening Day: 28 December 2006



In a city of love and prosperity, a city of lost hope and premature death, veteran detective Hei (TONY LEUNG CHIU-WAI) feels it all: the hurt, the helplessness, the horror. When his father-in-law, the billionaire benefactor Chau, is gruesomely murdered in his palatial mansion, he enlists the assistance of his former partner turned private detective, Bong (TAKESHI KANESHIRO).

On the surface, the murder smacks of a vendetta that has taken a lifetime to fulfill. But no sooner has Bong agreed to crack the case with Hei than he realizes nothing is what it appears to be. Undoubtedly, they are after a monster in a perfect crime: every detail was meticulously orchestrated, every motive conveniently justifiable, and every culprit and potential witness mysteriously eliminated.

But Bong has his own demon to fight. Ever since the suicide of his pregnant girlfriend, he has lost his joie de vivre, even though he still retains the finest instincts of a man hunter. As he digs deeper and deeper into the case, all evidence seems to point to Chau’s daughter and Hei’s hysterical wife, Susan. But then the killer ups the ante by murdering Susan as well. Bong starts grappling with the suspicion that the man they hunt is someone very close to them, someone on the verge of a total breakdown.

Like lost souls in a city of fallen angels, the cop, the private detective, and the killer are doing what they must. Every step of their journey takes them closer and closer to one another, until a shocking denouement in which no stone is left unturned and no one can escape unscathed.

Movie Review:

One teardrop.

That was all it took to convince us that this film is the best Hong Kong production of 2006.

It was a simple scene: The movie’s two protagonists, as played by the brilliant Tony Leung and the charming Takeshi Kaneshiro, are sitting outside the hospital in the middle of the night. A circling tracking camera sees the two men exchange dialogue amidst a seemingly calm atmosphere. Leung is then put in focus when a single tear rolls down his nose bridge.

And that was it. No emotional screams; no shrill cries; no out-of-control outbreaks. With one single teardrop, we have witnessed one of the quietest, but feelingly heartbreaking and painful scenes on the big screen this year.

A glance at the directors’ credit list and you find yourself not being surprised by how well-made this movie is. Andrew Lau and Alan Mak are the protégés who revived Hong Kong cinema by making the critically acclaimed Infernal Affairs series (2002- 2003).

But comparing this movie to the trilogy drama about undercover cops would be inappropriate, because behind the crime-thriller context of this picture is a heartfelt tale about how depressed and lonely we are in this bustling city.

In fact, the aptly termed literal translation of the movie’s Mandarin title would be “Sad City”.

The film’s centre-stage is a bloody and cruel murder of two old men. One of them is the father-in-law of a high-flying cop. His disillusioned ex-partner is roped in to help solve the crime. The two friends each has inner turmoil and conflict that they cannot get over with. And this will culminate in a tragic truth-revealing conclusion where the cold and solitude city looks on as the two urbanites come to terms with their own pasts.

As you can tell from the synopsis, this movie is not an uplifting or inspiring piece of work. How ironic it is then, to open the picture with a scene that takes place on a Christmas Eve night. Amidst all the cheers and festive celebrations, you can feel the uneasiness and unease lurking during this beautifully shot opening sequence.

Thanks to directors of photography Andrew Lau and Lai Yiu-Fai, the entire picture captured on their lens showcases lush and rich urban colours which feel chilly and lonesome at the same time. The varied score composed by Chan Kwong Wing features contrasting instruments which complement the mood of the movie very nicely - melancholic piano tinkling and heart-thumping ethnic Chinese drums beating are just some of the examples.

However high the production values, what matters most is the heart of this 113-minute movie – a soulful story that we can all connect to.

Although the first half of the movie focuses on the crime and all those little details that any good detective drama should have, the second half explores some universal human emotions which the most heartless can feel for.

It helps that Leung and Kaneshiro are cast as the two suffering men. Needless to say, Leung plays his character with so much ease; it feels that you are actually interacting with him through his expressive eyes. After playing a heartbroken actor in Peter Chan’s Perhaps Love (2005), Kaneshiro channels his good looks and sorrowful expressions into this alcoholic character, to some very good results.

The rest of the cast give impressive performances too, ranging from the quietly angry Xu Jinglei, the trusted Chapman To, and the irritatingly cute Shu Qi.

With such a talented cast and crew in place, there is almost nothing which can go wrong. And we are glad nothing has.

What hit us hard are the simple scenes where we see the two men just sitting there, conversing and exchanging casual banter. In some instances, these confessions of pain reveal the saddest stories that are just waiting to be told.

Every one has a sad story to tell. After watching this movie, you’d be wondering: What’s yours? And who would you tell it to?

Movie Rating:

(The best Hong Kong production of 2006 is a stylish and competent look at the sad stories we have kept inside us for the longest time)

Review by John Li


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