Taiwan with a touch of Hollywood thanks to a respected American actor.
A mish mash of English, Hokkien, Mandarin.
Tony Leung Ka Fai .... Huang Huo-tu
David Morse .... Kevin Richter
Rene Liu .... Ching-fang
Leon Dai .... Li Feng-bo
Kuei-Mei Yang .... Coroner
Sihung Lung .... Taoist Expert
Brett Climo .... Serial Killer
Wei-Han Huang .... Mei-Mei
One decent cop with a very powerful name, Huang Huo Tu blew the whistle on a corrupt cop who happened to be (if I am not mistaken) his wife's cousin who later took his only child as a hostage but was killed instead and the child became psychologically impaired. This decent cop became alienated by his fellow colleagues because in the Chinese world, loyalty is considered more honourable than revealing the truth about a corrupted somebody. His wife, the suffering Ching Fang became estranged from him due to their lack of communication and Huo Tu spending more time in his office than at home. Then murders of the most bizarre kind began happening. One American FBI profiler, Kevin Richter was sent to assist in the cases when the Taiwanese authorities who never had a serial killing before had more than they could handle. Whilst Kevin believed in scientifically explainable phenomena, Huo Tu can't help but feel something supernatural was at hand here. And indeed, one raid in a temple within a high rise modern building killed almost the entire police force sent to investigate the building and in this fanatical religious cult, they found a young woman entombed in a secret place with this temple. They couldn't figure out why and what happened but they thought the case was solved until Huo TU woke up one morning after a happy dinner with Kevin, his wife and child only to find Kevin died the most brutal death right in his living room. Bent on completing the investigation of this heinous crime which almost took his close friend's life, he encountered ultimately his own deepest demon. Will he survive it all? Who is that girl and what is her agenda?
Some Explanations On The Cult In The Movie
The young woman found entombed in a coffin-like chamber was actually the ring leader, who somehow through the power of persuasion and hidden religious fanaticism in ordinary men, successfully convinced two computer geniuses to invest their entire fortune in such a cult, creating the most bizarre ways to kill others so to follow the prophecy which they found engraved within their own religious tablet. The prophecy predicted that if several unconnected people who was connected only through their sins (meaning people who did bad things in life) were to die in the way prescribed, the ring leader, who must be one really ill person, would become an immortal and reach sainthood so to speak. This is due to the legend of an immortal who became an immortal after spending his entire life killing sinful people, those who deserved to die. The question as to how this young woman could convince these grown adults to devise ways to kill people, etc etc etc and who this young girl is still remains unknown. Our main protagonist, Huo Tu is within this prophecy.
The poster was really eerie, a stillborn with two pupils in each eye. The overall mood of the film was tired, dark, depressing and very serious. I find the direction very atmospheric and certainly the performances by Tony Leung, Rene Liu and David Morse were the highlights of this movie, apart from the massacre scene within the temple in the high rise building which was both shocking and yet satisfying.
I think this movie came out just at the right time when the world is facing its own greatest and most feared enemy; religious fanatics, who in using the name of God, did stuff that God would never had intended them to do so, which means their actions are an insult to the noble vision of a forgiving and giving God. Whilst this movie did not touch directly on such an issue, we do have a glimpse of the extreme form a person can take when one immerses oneself too long and too much into religion of any kind. It's scary and very real and very, very relevant in today's time.
However the entire story isn't perfect. There were loopholes, like why did David Morse' character have to have such an ending? What was the justification? If you were so drugged out and you imagined yourself drowning and indeed you died from drowning without being anywhere near a pile of water and then you did die of symptoms similar to drowning. But then will the symptoms manifested in such a drowning be real or are they just your imagination? This movie never adequately answered all that. What about the ring leader? Who was she? Don't know, not even till the end. And the ending itself is the standard cheesy ending. I just wished they had stuck to the story instead of becoming preachy all of a sudden.
But then you can't expect much from a story burdened by a very heavy subject. As far as I am concerned, I thought this movie was one of the most thought provoking movies this year, and very well acted. It's a good movie, if you ignore the obvious discrepancies in the story. If you can do that, it's worth a watch and to ponder; how far will a religious fanatic go? In the case of this movie, and in the case of the real world, very, very far.
The massacre, very scary, terrifying and yet I believe it could happen in real life. We have lots of crazy people out there.
The relationship between Huo Tu and Kevin.
The contempt the Chinese police felt for western interference in the form of Kevin.
The Chinese equivalent of FBI, all dressed so shabbily with pouches, they looked more like VCD peddlers than cops, so very realistic
Some unexplained connections
In Taiwan, thanks to this movie I know there are no documented serial killings (yet). Very interesting.
Interesting Moot Point
This has nothing to do with the movie but everything to do with its theme. Religion and fanatics.
After September 11, I can never doubt a human being is able to stoop so low for something so intangible. It seems whilst the world is slowly heading towards economic globalisation, religious fanaticism seems to have a more favourable acceptance amongst the Muslim. Suddenly we have terrorism globalisation. Everywhere there are Muslims united to cause mayhem, probably from the same network. They see themselves as noble warriors fighting in the name of God against oppressions, we see them as plain terrorists. After September 11, I see them plainly as animals, and that would even insult an animal. They're worse than animals, and theyre cowards too as they hide behind the veil of God.
I wonder, does God condone all these actions? As in this movie, the girl killed sinners to gain immortality. If you look it in a very narrow way, sinners may deserve to die which is why killing them is seen as a noble deed. BUT some may be small time sinners. What makes one an executioner and how does one decide who deserves to die? It's all so subjective and this movie highlighted this to a certain extent. In the end, everybody seems like a hypocrite, even in the real world, and no amount of praying can justify what is ultimately a selfish act for very selfish reasons which is not noble selfish but malicious selfish.
I live in a tolerant Muslim country. I have met very liberal minded Muslims, friendly Muslims, smart intelligent Muslims. Thus far I have yet to meet a fanatical Muslim but I can feel some resentment for other races, some times. The main point is "tolerance" and it is indeed sad that everybody living harmoniously is termed as a tolerant society. Such a word connotes that one day such tolerance might snap and end. I hope that day never comes but frankly Muslims have a tendency of extremity in every word; either too religious to the point of fanaticism or very liberal to the point of very understanding.
What I do know at this moment is Malaysia is not a country harbouring terrorists of any kind because we are a nation who wants economic success and any such act would destroy the very basis of our Vision 2020. We do not have our own agenda. We may have said stupid things some times, fought with our cousins over how much money to pay for clean water, railway road, let in more Indonesian immigrants than we can handle just to increase the population of Malays as opposed to Chinese and Indians...we have been silly time and time again but I can assure you and I am proud to say that we are not terrorists and we do not condone any terrorists actions. I can't be liberal in the face of such blatant attacks against humanity dragging our innocent feet into the mass grave. Whilst I feel sad for USA, their citizens weren't the only one who died in the attacks, there were also people from other countries who died that day too. Overzealous accusations of everybody and anybody who has ever had terrorists stopping over at their country as harbouring terrorists will only make everybody hate such accusers.
In the end what I am trying to say is, like the ending of this movie, Love is the most powerful tool of all as love is immortal. Compassion would certainly pave the way. If you're a Muslim and you suddenly have this urge to die for your God by slamming your car into an innocent bystander or if you're the family of the innocent bystander who has this hatred in you to kill any people who share the same religion as the Muslim who killed your family, try to see things in a different light; God gave you life so for God's sake, live it well (for the former) and not all Muslims are evil (for the latter).
Bu Bu Jing Xinstarring Cecilia Liu Shi Shi, Kevin Cheng, Nicky Wu, Yuan Hong
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