The Accident -- Film Review

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Venice Film Festival -- Competition

VENICE -- A moody, minimalist thriller, "The Accident" is not what one would expect from this Soi Cheange-Johnnie To collaboration. It features little action but is a brilliantly conceived paranoid spiral of a professional hit man. Both Cheange and To have a loyal following worldwide, and this film in particular should broaden international theatrical horizons. "The Accident" is also tailor-made for a remake.

Working with a crack team, Ho Kwok-fai (Louis Koo), who goes by "Brain," commits perfect murders that are actually elaborately staged accidents. The film's opening scenes are pure ballet: A Triad boss is killed after a series of choreographed, seemingly casual events that to the police could only be accidental.

Their next client hires the team to off his elderly father. On the night they do, one of Brain's crew is himself killed in an accident and someone breaks into Brain's apartment. Suspicious by nature and by profession, he begins following the client, who leads him to a mysterious insurance agent (Asian heartthrob Richie Jen).

Brain wiretaps the agent's apartment, moves in underneath him and spends his days following or listening to the man's every move. Brain even begins doubting the rest of his crew, which he has already been bugging for some time.

In the beginning, we also assume Brain's partner was murdered, but could it have been just a freak accident? Are the events Brain strings together related or just everyday movements interpreted by the paranoid mind of a man in mourning?

The scenes take place either in broad daylight or in nighttime shadows, where faces are half-exposed in yellow lamplight. The suspense mounts as Brain tries to unravel what has happened, but not everything in life is controllable or controlled -- like the car accident that killed Brain's wife that may or may not have been an attempt on his own life.

Too much time is spent watching Brain listening to the agent, however, and towards the end "The Accident" seems to be imitating Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece "The Conversation." But the finale neatly, and tragically, connects the pieces of the puzzle.

Production companies: Milky Way
Sales: Media Asia Distribution
Cast: Louis Koo, Richie Jen, Michelle Ye, Suet Lam, Monica Mok
Director: Soi Cheange
Screenwriters: Kam-Yuen Szeto, Lik-Kei Tang
Producer: Johnnie To
Director of photography: Yuen Man Fung
Production designers: Silver Cheung, Stanley Cheung
Music: Xavier Jamaux
Editor: David Richardson

No rating, 86 minutes