Nightmares in Precinct 7 (2001) Movie Review

There is an infamous tradition in Hong Kong cinema to take Hollywood movies and turn them into Chinese movies. Jet Li did it with The Bodyguard from Beijing, which converted the Kevin Costner movie, The Bodyguard. There are a host of other movies, too numerous to mention. Most of the times these “conversions” are only superficially done. For instance, a certain situation and plot points will be copied, but the scenery and background will be different. On the whole, many of these adaptations are terrible because they have the ring of familiarity with them, only done less competently. In some rare cases, the copies could actually be better than the original, but these are rare exceptions.

This is the case with Nightmares in Precinct 7, a movie that is a combination Sixth Sense, Ghost, and The Dead Zone with Christopher Walken. Like Zone, the hero of Nightmares is put into a coma and awakens with strange a power that at first frightens him, but he grows into it, and learns to use it for the good of mankind. The protagonist of Nightmares is a cop who is shot in the head during a police operation gone bad that also took the life of two of his men.

The hero, Jing, wakes up 2 years later and just in time to get involved in a serial rapist/murderer case. The serial rapist’s victims are all nurses, and as coincidence would have it, Jing’s new girlfriend is the nurse who has been caring for him during his entire 2-year coma. That makes up the movie’s First Act, and the Second Act involves Jing and his police squad searching for the killer, with Jing relying on his newfound abilities whenever possible. You wouldn’t believe how much it helps when the murdered victim is available to ID her killer for you.

The movie’s premise is a retread, but the way it’s written and executed is vastly different. There are some minor scares at the beginning, as ghosts pop up to frighten Jing, who hasn’t yet realized what is happening. These small and brief scares are unnecessary and really goes nowhere, and actually makes little sense when the rest of the movie is composed of humor and mystery.

The humor is between Jing and a ghost name Kit, a former psychiatrist who pops up at the most convenient times. First to let Jing in on about his new abilities, and later to help with the case. Who says ghosts aren’t good for anything? When Jing realizes his new nurse girlfriend Oscar is a possible target, his search for the killer takes on a whole new urgency. Jing and Oscar’s burgeoning love affair is handled with skill and ease. The two actors are terrific in their roles and manages to ooze charm whilie at the same time avoid all the trappings of awkward movie moments when two characters are forced to “fall in love” in the space of a few minutes.

The writers throw some red herrings at us toward the end, and I must admit to being fooled. I dreaded the revealing of the rapist, hoping it wasn’t someone who I liked. The scene actually reminded me quite a bit of the final scene in Mel Gibson’s Payback. If you’ve seen that movie, than you know what I’m talking about.

The ending. Let me talk about the ending.

Throughout the entire movie, Kit, who has the ability to “see” people’s “life bars” fluctuate between life and death, constantly tells Jing that Oscar’s life signs are weak, that she is about to die. This gives us, and Jing, urgency to find the killer. The movie makes great use of Kit, who shows up every now and again to remind Jing and us that Oscar’s life is on the line here.

And with the filmmakers having so masterfully presented Oscar to us as a lovable and such a likeable character, we hope Jing finds the rapist before he strikes. We do not want to lose her. And what’s more, we do not want Jing to lose her. The twist that caps off this subplot is magnificent and I never saw it coming. In fact, there are actually two twists, but I won’t spoil either one for you.

As a whole, Nightmares in Precinct 7 is not actually a ghost story. It’s not scary, even though there are a few scares in the beginning. The movie is actually a love story and mystery. It’s nice to see Jing’s character change from a selfish cop who knows he’s a “talented” cop to a caring man who is desperate to save Oscar at all costs. His affections toward her feel real and his need to see her safe compliments the viewers’ wishes that she not be harm. In this regard, the movie achieves in spades.

Herman Yau (director)
CAST: Andy Hui, Rachel Lee, Simon Loui Yu-Yeung


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