“Crimes of Passion” is a new big screen version of the popular 1996 television series “A Sentimental Story”, adapted from a novel by Hai Yan. The film was directed by Gao Qunshu, who was recently responsible for the acclaimed and multiple award winning “Beijing Blues”, and stars real life couple Angelababy (“Tai Chi Hero”) and Huang Xiaoming (“American Dreams in China”) in the lead roles, as police officers whose professional and personal relationship is put to the test when she is given the job of looking after a Korean gangster witness played by actor Jae Hee (“The Evil Twin”). Having been shot a few years back, the film was finally released recently, having its premiere at the Shanghai Film Festival.
The plot revolves around a missing golden Buddha statue, a long missing Chinese national treasure which has fallen into the hands of Hong Kong based Korean gangsters the Kim family. After the police rescue him from a hit by hired killers, the family’s youngest son Jeong Sai (Jae Hee) is smuggled away to hide out in Shenzhen, where it’s hoped he’ll reveal the whereabouts of the statue. Assigned to his case is detective Lu (Angelababy), while her boyfriend and fellow officer Yu (Huang Xiaoming) watches at a distance. Much to Yu’s anger, Lu starts to develop feelings for Jeong Sai despite his criminal connections, and things quickly get complicated when it becomes clear that he has plans of his own, putting them all in danger.
There’s lots going on in “Crimes of Passion”, and the film’s main strength is its enjoyably soap opera style plot, which while never believable should be fun for viewers with a taste for trashy melodrama. Veering between romantic intrigue and police action, the film is never dull and moves along at a decent pace, Gao Qunshu throwing in plenty of action and hysteria along the way. Though chaotic and frequently making little sense, the film is generally lively and agreeable as a result. Though Gao was a bit of a strange choice as director, his “Beijing Blues” having been a low-budget, documentary style indie, he does a reasonable, if rather anonymous job here, and gives the material a little more gravity than it probably deserves.
Most viewers will be attracted to the film due to its big name pan-Asian cast, and the three leads all turn in respectable performances. Though Angelababy has yet to prove herself as talented as the original TV series star, award winning actress and director Xu Jinglei, she’s perfectly respectable here, managing to convey a suitable sense of confusion and heartache as the troubled Lu and more or less successfully carrying the film. Huang Xiaoming and Jae Hee don’t have quite so much to do as her pair of beaus, the two of them spending most of the time either scowling or making puppy dog eyes at her, though they’re both fine, and have the occasional whacky moment here and there.
While it’d be going too far to call the film emotionally involving or moving, it generally hits the right beats and its central love triangle unfolds in an entertaining manner, enough to keep the viewer watching as it builds towards its surprisingly downbeat conclusion. This is undermined somewhat by the fact that as a Mainland production the film was obviously limited by the censors in terms of sex and violence, and it does suffer from being a bit toothless in places. With some odd cutting away and a general avoidance of bedroom action, it’s not always terribly clear what has happened.
Still, while nothing particularly special, “Crimes of Passion” is enjoyable in its own modest way, and fans of the cast or the original material should have a good enough time. Gao Qunshu is clearly capable of better, but as a commercially minded bit of melodramatic fluff, it’s inoffensive and passes a couple of hours painlessly.
Qunshu Gao (director) / Qunshu Gao, Xin Huo (screenplay), Hai Yan (novel)
CAST: Angelababy … lü Yueyue
Xiaoming Huang … Xue Yu