here 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
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.