San Francisco International Film Festival

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hong Kong action director Johnnie To falls flat in this lackluster stab at melodrama with "Linger," a listless ghost/love story, a dud that's neither spooky nor romantic. As it dispenses with pacing, motivation and suspense, Johnnie To fans expecting kinetic lift-off or noir intrigue will be let down and soap opera lovers won't get a sudsy payoff from Ivy Ho's sappy script. The film, which sags even at 90 minutes, bombed in Hong Kong and may bypass overseas theaters on its way to DVD.

Strapping Dong (Vic Chou) drives down the highway while engaged in a heated argument with his fragile girlfriend, Yan (Li Bing Bing). The car crash that kills him is the film's most artfully staged sequence. Flash forward three years and the troubled, pill popping Yan, suffering from survivor's guilt, begins receiving nighttime visitations from Dong, a member of the living dead who has returned to get her off Prozac, retrieve that loving feeling and resolve unfinished business. Only then can he transition from limbo to the other side or some such hackneyed claptrap.

More banal than supernatural, "Linger" inspires no threat, titillation or revulsion. Aside from a lovemaking scene, we don' believe these people were meant for each other, a conclusion exacerbated by zero chemistry between the limp actors. Cheung Siu Keung's under lit scenes elicit eye strain rather than the world beyond and Guy Zelafa's schmaltzy soundtrack only underscores a hopelessly predictable, uniformly bad movie.

Production company: Milkyway Image (HK) Ltd. production, Sundream Motion Pictures Ltd. & Sil-Metropole Organization Ltd.

Cast: Vic Chou, Li Bing Bing, Yao Yung, Maggie Shiu, Roy Cheung, Wong Yau Nam.
Director: Johnnie To.
Screenwriters: Ivy Ho.
Executive producers: Siuming Tsui, Song Dai.
Producer: Johnnie To, Cheung Hong Tat, Siuming Tsui.
Director of photography: Cheung Siu Keung.
Production designer: Raymond Chan.
Music: Guy Zerafa.
Costume designer: Stanley Cheung.
Editor: David Richardson.
Sales: Sundream Motion Pictures Ltd./ Gloria Tang.
No rating, 88 minutes.