Kuo-fu Chen’s “Double Vision” was written, executed, and intended for international audiences, so maybe this is why the film lacks a more “Asian” feel. Oh sure, the screenplay by Chen and Chao-Bin Su makes mention of Taoism, of demons and “unseen supernatural forces” and what have you, but the film’s first 90 minutes plays out like a standard TV episode of “Profiler” or “X-Files”. And that, I believe, is where “Double Vision” falters the most.
The film stars Tony Leung (“The Lover”) as Haung, a disgraced Taiwanese cop who, after blowing the whistle on police corruption, has found himself a pariah and estranged from his wife and daughter. When a series of odd murders begin to appear, the Taiwanese cops are helpless to make a break in the case. Not only that, but they seem unwilling to do so. Enter American FBI agent Kevin Richter (David Morse), who is sent to Taiwan to assist, much to the local cops’ consternation.
In some ways, “Double Vision” is much more ambitious than most of its fellow films in the genre. Unfortunately the movie’s handling of the Taiwanese political context as it relates to national pride (and to some extent, ego) is much more successful than it’s unraveling of the mystery. In standard Serial Killer fashion, Richter and Huang go about investigating the crimes, with one evidence leading to another and finally to the answer. All of this culminates in a surprising bloodbath that comes out of left field but is easily the most engaging segment in the whole movie.
But since “Double Vision” is a Serial Killer film, and no self-respecting Serial Killer film post-“Seven” has closed things out with a standard ending, “Vision” too offers up a surprise twist. Although it should be noted that if you’ve seen the trailer for “Double Vision” the surprise is far from, well, surprising.
As the lead, Tony Leung gives an effective performance as the haunted cop still trying to cope with the aftermath of his whistle blowing 2 years later. David Morse (“Proof of Life”) is spared the Ugly American role by playing a sympathetic and intelligent character who just happens to have relied so much on science that being asked to swallow concepts like demons and such is a bit too much. Morse and Leung’s interaction also provides the film with its highlights, including their first meeting at an airport. As Leung’s long-suffering wife, Rene Liu also provides a nice background for Huang, although Richter’s own background is grossly lacking.
The look of “Double Vision” is what you would expect from a movie in the Serial Killer genre. It’s dark, brooding, and the tone is somber and dead serious. Cinematographer Arthur Wong (“2000 A.D.”) thankfully avoids the rain-drenched look inspired by “Seven” that so many Serial Killer films has tried to emulate. There aren’t a lot of horror elements to be found in “Vision”, and the film is relatively clean-cut when it comes to gruesome violence. This may explain why the massacre scene was so over the top, complete with buckets of splashing blood, severed bodyparts, and gaping gunshot wounds. Could it be an attempt to make up for the oddly lack of violence and gore in the film?
It may be that I just don’t particularly care to learn all that much about Taoism, because the movie’s tangents on religion and evil seem somewhat irrelevant to me. While knowledge of Taoism does help to understand the motives behind the serial killings, it doesn’t actually help to solve the case. I also believe that the many detours into Taoism only adds to the movie’s bloated 110-minute running length, which ends up ruining the film’s pacing. As a result, the movie has a long, drawn-out feel that makes the final (and supposedly climactic) 20 minutes seem perfunctory.
“Double Vision” is not for serious Serial Killer movie lovers. If not for the 10-minute massacre sequence, the movie lacks excitement. The film is probably too standard for its own good, and the writing suffers badly from ABC plotting.
Kuo-fu Chen (director) / Kuo-fu Chen, Chao-Bin Su (screenplay)
CAST: Tony Leung Ka Fai …. Huang Huo-tu
David Morse …. Kevin Richter
Rene Liu …. Ching-fang
Leon Dai …. Li Feng-bo