BLACK RANSOM [SEE PIU FUNG WAN | 撕票風雲]

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HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Keung Kwok-Man, Wong Jing  Written by: Wong Jing  Produced by: Wong Jing Cinematography: Keung Kwok-Man Editing: Lee Kar-Wing Music: Henry Lai  Cast: c, Kiu Wai Miu, Fala Chen, Andy On, Yang Liu, Tak-Bun Wong, Vincent Wong, Ying Qu, Hiromi Wada, Ada Wong, Yu Xing, Winnie Leung

A Wong Jing movie is with almost 100% certainty always a Wong Jing movie. No matter what you do, it is going to look and feel like a Wong Jing movie. I have respect for him for creating his own trademark movie style and recipe (less respect though for his copy-and-paste philosophy). That doesn’t mean that I like his movies. I seldom do, frankly speaking.

BLACK RANSOM is one of Wong Jing’s better efforts and clearly his best movie in 2010 so far (having said that he’ll probably produce another dozen movies or so until year-end). BLACK RANSOM is still a very typical movie however, and this time I realized that a Wong Jing movie doesn’t actually need a director. Consequently the cinematographer takes over the direction (with Wong Jing once again being the co-director). Trust me, you’ll not notice the difference.

I found the English title a bit puzzling, and even now I am not sure how ransom could be black or what black ransom really is. It probably just sounded meaty and dark; Wong Jing is a great marketer, and I actually believe that he usually comes up with a title first and then constructs the movie around it (see BEAUTY ON DUTY or FUTURE X-COPS). That would also explain why his movies usually lack structure, dramaturgy and character development: the only purpose is to translate the cool title onto the screen.

BLACK RANSOM deals with ex-cops kidnapping triad members for money so that they can give some of the ransom to charity and use the rest to finance further activities against the mob. They want real justice, as they believe that the legislative apparatus rules in favor of the bad guys. Simon Yam plays a detective who plays by the rules and is chasing them after they took another gangster hostage. Soon a tense duel between Yam and the leader of the bad guys begins.

If you want to see a great duel between two worthy antagonists better watch FIRE OF CONSCIENCE. BLACK RANSOM is trying very hard to imitate every action flick from Michael Mann to Dante Lam, but it ends up a poor copy of the originals. It’s like patchwork, borrowing here and there, gluing pieces together that don’t really fit together – as so often Wong Jing doesn’t create an original work of art, but an amalgamation of what others have invented before.

BLACK RANSOM is not really bad though, but I can’t say it’s a solid action movie either. It’s still substandard by comparison, lacking beef, consistency, good actors and a script that makes sense. Too many things are irrelevant here, are confusing or plain nonsense. Cut the crap out and you’re left with little more than 40 minutes of a so-so film.

BLACK RANSOM is a movie you have definitely seen many times before, just better. So I wouldn’t know a real reason you should watch it. If you have a choice, choose something else. Anything.

J.


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