Fans of last year’s good/bad/insane Aaron Kwok starring psycho mystery “Murderer” can rejoice, as director Roy Chow and writer Christine To return with more madness in the form of “Nightfall”. Another labyrinth, over the top tale of homicidal intrigue, the Hong Kong film sees the duo maintaining their reputation for hysterical twists and revelations, and features an impressive cast headlined by acclaimed actor and one of the current kings of gritty thrillers, Nick Cheung (recently in Dante Lam’s superb “The Beast Stalker” and “The Stool Pigeon”), with support from veteran Simon Yam (“Election”), Janice Man (“Lover’s Discourse”) and the inimitable Michael Wong (“Overheard”).
Cheung plays Wong Yuen Yeung, a man released from jail after a 20 year stretch for the rape and murder of a teenage girl called Yi Wan who he was accused of stalking. He immediately starts following around Tsui Suet (Janice Man), a young pianist with an uncanny resemblance to Yi Wan, who also happens to have the same father, wealthy orchestra conductor Tsui Hon Lam (Michael Wong). After Tsui Hon Lam turns up dead, Wong Yuen Yeung naturally becomes the prime suspect, though police investigator Lam Ching Chung (Simon Yam) soon realises that there may be something more sinister linking the two murders.
With “Nightfall”, misdirection is very much the order of the day, the film doing its best to pack in the red herrings and narrative trickery, and though not as far out and crazed as “Murderer”, it’s an amusingly hysterical affair with plenty of daft twists and turns along the way. Although the film is let down slightly by an occasionally pedestrian and patronising script by Christine To (who perhaps decided to spoon-feed the viewer after “Murderer” having been derided for its wild nonsense), it still holds the interest through an entertainingly, at time near soap opera style stream of flashbacks and overwrought exposition scenes. The central mystery is actually quite strong, and though the films big reveal is likely to be fairly obvious to most viewers, it’s still a fun and reasonably coherent ride as it builds to its satisfying climax.
It also helps that the film includes a decent amount of carnage, starting off in fine and shockingly violent fashion, with a long, drawn out prison shower room brawl between Nick Cheung and several assailants, which results in them being viciously and spectacularly beaten to a pulp. Though from here it quickly settles down into crime procedural and long stretches of dialogue, it’s certainly a brutal film, with a number of bloody sequences throughout, enough so to give it a tough and visceral feel. Chow handles most of action pretty well, and though a bit less slow motion might have helped, the film is generally well made, and has a better and more stable pace than the rather random “Murderer”. Also adding to the viewer’s likely enjoyment is the fact that Chow directs with a real air of self-importance, throwing in plenty of moody visuals and portentous symbology, none of which ever manages to convince that the film is anything other than amiably exploitative trash.
Of the cast, Cheung unsurprisingly comes off best, having been gifted the film’s most interesting character in the conflicted Wong Yuen Yeung. Whilst his supposedly startling character arc is clearly mapped out by the script, he manages to convince as a very violent man indeed, at the same time adding enough humanity to make him an ambiguous anti-protagonist type of figure. Yam is fine and on his usual likeable form without having much to work with, though really, the film belongs to the one and only Michael Wong, who despite not having half as much screen time as he deserves, really steals the show with some hilariously bizarre overacting and ranting.
All of this adds up to make “Nightfall” a very entertaining watch, and though not as jaw-droppingly ludicrous as “Murderer”, it benefits from being better made, better acted and more stable. Though Roy Chow and Christine To probably still have some way to go to prove that they are capable of making a truly substantial or respectable film, there’s definitely something to be said for their wacky brand of old fashioned, lurid genre cinema.
Chow Hin Yeung Roy (director) / Chi-long To, Chow Hin Yeung Roy (screenplay)
CAST: Simon Yam … George Lam
Nick Cheung … Wong Yuen-yeung
Janice Man … Zoe Tsui