Given the INFERNAL AFFAIRS-sized expectations, it's sad to announce that the much-hyped directors duo Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's return to thinking man's thriller territory, CONFESSION OF PAIN is the most overrated movie of the year.
On the night of Christmas celebration, Inspector Lau Ching Hei (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and his partner, Bong (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are on the case to tail and arrest the suspected serial rapist in which the girl was brutally victimized. During the arrest, Hei has particularly teaches the rapist a lesson by pounding his head violently with a heavy object. But the night becomes especially scarred when Bong discovered his girlfriend, Rachel (Emme Wong), in which they had an ugly quarrel earlier on, dead in her bed from an apparent suicide. Completely devastated, Bong abused himself into nonstop alcohol ever since then. Three years later, Bong has already quit the police force and becomes private investigator. In the meantime, Hei is leading a good life with his fiancee Susan (Xu Jinglei) but it's not until her wealthy father (Yueh Hua) and his dedicated servant (Wan Yeung-Ming) are brutally murdered. Susan becomes delusional and suspecting that someone may be stalking her. Hei figures she is overreacted, and often giving her sedatives to keep her calm. Still he proceed to investigate the gruesome murder but so far there's no progress whatsoever. Susan, in turn, hires Bong to follow up on her father's murder and tackles the case along with the pain-in-the-neck cop Tsui (Chapman To). As Bong investigates the case further, he soon discovers that the killer is someone he can't believe in his own eyes.
Make no mistake, Felix Chong and Alan Mak's screenplay is appropriately melancholy to accompany the somber theme of the film. Though their story takes a great pain to come up a meaty approach, they are surprisingly uninvolving and heavy-handed. Perhaps the biggest mistake is that they shouldn't have revealed the identity of the killer way too early. Maybe they want to proceed by drawing the viewers to find out why the killer wanted to do it in the first place. Alas, it's also turns out to be disappointed either, with just too many verbal exposition while relying easy routes to wrap up everything by mere coincidence or simple conviction.
The suspense level are also surprisingly lackluster, and even director Andrew Lau and Alan Mak does little effort to come up some decent excitement, especially in an obvious, lazily-staged scene of the footchase sequence.
But the movie remains a credible effort when it comes to fulfill the theme of the film. The Chinese title of CONFESSION OF PAIN which translates as "Wounded City", offers a complex study for this group of pained protagonists struggling to put their life together.
The movie is also blessed with excellent performances, particularly for Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in his much-hyped first "bad guy" turn as the emotionally-conflicted Hei. His bespectacled expression alone speaks a thousand word and no doubt he is so committed to his role that we can almost feel the pain he has goes through. Equally captivating is Takeshi Kaneshiro, who brings both magnetic screen charisma and level of complexity to his emotionally-depressed role, while Mainland actress Xu Jinglei almost steals the limelight in a strongly supportive role as Hei's delusional wife. Chapman To and Shu Qi, who plays as Bong's cheerful beer girlfriend, bring necessary bright spots to the otherwise too-brooding material.
Likewise, the technical credits are top-notch with moody nighttime cinematography and a jazzy score from Chan Kwong-Ming. It's not a great movie it desperately touted to be, but as far as the lackluster Hong Kong cinema goes nowadays, this is at least as good as it gets.