CHINA / HONG KONG / SINGAPORE 2009 Directed & Written by: Alan Mak, Felix Chong Produced by: Henry Fong, Tung-Shing Yee Cinematography: Anthony Pun Editing: Chi Wai Chan, Chi Leung Kwong Music: Kwong Wing Chan Cast: Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo, Daniel Wu, Jingchu Zhang, Michael Wong, Waise Lee, Lam Ka Wah
It’s good to see that Alan Mak and Felix Chong are getting back on track after their very own disaster movie LADY COP & PAPA CROOK: OVERHEARD turns out to be a very mature film – quite the opposite of LADY COP – and easily bears comparison with international productions.
OVERHEARD is the right film at the right time, a film that reflects the global zeitgeist and perhaps that’s why it is so profoundly melancholic. The story about a wire-tapping mission during which a group of policemen learn about stock market manipulation and want to use this insider knowledge for their own gain is very much contemplating and doesn’t want much more than to dramatize the all-embracing depression on personal level. Many elements of the story line are not necessarily new though, and several times the typical Hong Kong style dominates the structure of the movie, somewhat erratic, nervous, and a bit far-fetched.
What’s remarkable about OVERHEARD however is that it’s so subtle. It almost seems as if Mak and Chong wanted to discover the virtue of slowness for themselves and for Hong Kong’s film industry. OVERHEARD is no action movie, perhaps a thriller, it most certainly is a drama. The more the film concentrates on the criminal acts and those responsible the more it tends to thin out; as long as it closely follows the protagonists it is very personal, moving and caring. It comes as no surprise that OVERHEARD is featuring one of the best ensemble performances of last year.
OVERHEARD is a film about ethics, reality and the gap between. The film doesn’t take the easy path: it does not really sympathize with the policemen, even though that would be obvious due to the circumstances. Lau Ching Wan’s character, not exactly having a clean slate himself, is setting an example for ethical behavior, but we nevertheless feel for his colleagues, just as he does. Why not benefit when opportunity knocks?
The lesson OVERHEARD teaches is that it’s not about those up there and those down below, about kings and peasants, abound bad banks and good citizens. It’s about the non-polemical statement that it all doesn’t have anything to do with one another. What really matters is that everyone must decide which side he’s on. And that everyone is accountable for the consequences.
OVERHEARD thinks out loud, makes us follow its train of thought and doesn’t forget that it has to entertain its audience so that they are willing to buy into that thinking process. OVERHEARD is a commercial film with far above-average IQ. In these short-lived times that is an artistic accomplishment.
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