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Confession of Pain

Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 06/27/07 14:18:01

"Confession of a Geeky Fan-Girl."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 33RD ANNUAL SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, JUNE 2007. OK, let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat: I would happily pay perfectly good money to spend two hours watching Tony Leung Chiu-wai (In the Mood for Love, 2046) or Takeshi Kaneshiro (House of Flying Daggers) read the backs of soup cans. The prospect of seeing them both together again – the two co-starred in Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express in 1994 – catapulted Confession of Pain straight to the top of my SIFF 2007 “must-see” list. That it was written and directed by Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Alan Mak Siu-fai, whose Infernal Affairs trilogy had me riveted for almost six hours of a Saturday afternoon during SIFF 2004, just sealed the deal.

While it’s no Infernal Affairs – hell, as good a movie as it is, The Departed is no Infernal Affairs – Confessions of Pain is a nifty police procedural with style to burn, one filled with the twists and turns that Lau and Mak are noted for. It is an intelligent and engrossing why-dunnit rather than a who-dunnit, since we know within the first twenty minutes who the culprit is. Thirteen years after they first collaborated, Leung and Kaneshiro are still a cinematic dream team.

The movie’s short prologue opens in downtown Hong Kong on Christmas Eve 2003. Police detective Bong (Kaneshiro) sits alone in a bar, amidst a crowd full of revelers, his hand clasped around a glass of whiskey, never releasing it but also never taking a sip. He is joined by his captain, Hei (Leung), who questions him about the untouched drink. Bong responds that he never consumes alcohol but orders it for the sake of appearances. Bong confides in Hei that his relationship with his girlfriend Rachel is troubled. Hei counsels Bong that, just as they must exercise patience in solving homicides, men must also cultivate patience when dealing with the women in their lives. The two leave the bar to join a raid on the apartment of a suspected rapist, where Hei demonstrates a stunning capacity for brutality. After the raid, Bong goes home to find Rachel dead in their bed, drenched in blood, having slit her wrists.

Three years later, Hei has married into great wealth and Bong has quit the police force, ostensibly to run a private detective business but in actuality to spend most of his waking hours drunk in the bar where Rachel spent her last hours, desperate to get to the heart of why Rachel took her own life.

When Hei’s father-in-law is murdered, Hei is listed as a suspect because of the money involved, but two other men are eventually arrested for the crime. Hei’s wife Susan (Xu Jinglei), unable to discern any possible motive for the two having killed her father, and unable to turn to her husband since he had been excluded from the investigation, enlists Bong’s support in finding out why the crime was committed.

Rounding out a winning cast are Shu Qi as Feng, a barmaid with whom Bong becomes involved, and Chapman To as Tsui Wing-kwong, or “Tsui the Bullshitter,” the lead detective assigned to the case of Susan’s father’s murder.

Like me, Leonardo DiCaprio obviously loves him some Andy Lau and Alan Mak. As with Infernal Affairs, on which he and screenwriter William Monahan teamed to re-make as The Departed, the two are in production to collaborate again on a remake of Confession of Pain – as of now under the same title. Might be made, might not; might be another The Departed, might not. Right now, the advice from here, as always, is to not speculate but Run Don’t Walk to see the Real Deal.

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