This TIFF inclusion from 2009 finally emerges on Canadian soil for public consumption on Blu-ray via Shout Factory almost three years later. While not widely known, Soi Cheang's film has one of the most clever conceptual plot hooks since 'Infernal Affairs': a group of assassins-for-hire specialize in elaborately choreographed murders made to look like accidents, thus absolving their clients and themselves of persecution or retribution. It makes for a stimulating, small-scale thriller ripe for a bigger, more spectacular Hollywood remake.
Accident (2009) dir. Soi Cheang
Starring: Louis Koo, Richie Ren, Shui-Fan Fung, Michelle Ye, Suet Lam
By Alan Bacchus
Hong Kong star Louis Koo plays Ho Kwok-Fai, the brain of the team, a foursome not unlike something we'd see in a Mission Impossible film. They're introduced overseeing their latest orchestration: a car accident on a busy Hong Kong street. Seemingly random details, such as a rogue balloon flying in the air covering up a street camera and a blinding flash of reflected light from a mirror, combine to create a perfectly constructed domino effect that results in their pre-planned fake accident. But on their latest job, when a bus seemingly runs out of control, killing one of Ho's colleagues, Ho suspects he might be the target of someone else's accident orchestration.
Director Soi Cheang keeps the action and plotting contained, making Accident a relatively small picture and focusing in on Ho's character and his obsession, paranoia and isolation. Not unlike Gene Hackman's Harry Caul from The Conversation or Leonardo Di Caprio in Inception, Ho's life of clandestine deception has altered his perception of reality. This boils over into a paranoia-fuelled search for his assassin. He rents an apartment directly below his suspect, maps out his floor plan on his ceiling and listens in on his telephone conversations. Doubt and confusion create an obsessed mania akin to the destruction of Hackman's apartment in The Conversation or Guy Pearce's tattooed notes in Memento.
Louis Koo's performance is delightfully intense and focused, portraying Ho as a broken man plagued by the nightmarish memories of his wife's fatal car accident (or potential murder). Koo's attire complements this intensity, as he wears constricting clothes, a form-fitting jacket and large, industrial sniper glasses.
Cheang imbues a distinct visual palette using long lenses almost exclusively to convey a voyeuristic feel and visually compressing the world around Ho.
If anything, where Cheang leaves us short is in detailing the procedural aspects of his characters' schemes, something a Hollywood remake, as made by Christopher Nolan or Martin Scorsese, would map out and visualize with greater fastidiousness and care. But the work presented here is still an intriguing conceptual film that stands on its own, a sharp little gem to find in the glut of other new home video releases.
The Shout Factory Blu-ray features a decent making-of documentary and curiously, a faulty 2:35:1 anamorphic transfer, which appears as a vertically stretched 16x9 full frame aspect ratio. It's difficult to say if this fault applies to all the Blu-rays in circulation, however.
This review first appeared on Exclaim.ca