Film: Revenge - A Love Story
UK Release date: 23rd January 2012
Director: Wong Ching-Po
Starring: Juno Mak, Sola Aoi, Tony Ho, Chin Siu Ho
Running time: 91 mins
Reviewer: Adam Wing
According to director Wong Ching Po (Jiang Hu), Revenge: A Love Story is a movie about hatred, and there’s a good chance it won’t take you long to figure that out for yourself. “Human beings can never let go of hatred. Being in hatred is like a one way trip into darkness, you will never come back until it is settled.” If you want an idea of how brutal his latest vision is at times, you only have to read the words of the man himself. “We wanted to relieve the pain brought by hatred, but we failed. We can’t imagine how torturing it is to live with hatred after all.” Revenge: A Love Story isn’t the perfect date movie then, but it is available on UK shores for the first time this month courtesy of Terror-cotta.
The first act takes us down a dark and twisted road, serving up a heavy dose of torture porn excess and soul-destroying imagery. Police are investigating a serial killer who targets pregnant women and the media have labelled him ‘The Dissector’. So far so very grim, and a visually disturbing feast knee deep in gruesome murder sequences to boot. Undercover detectives Jeff and Kwok Wah (Chin Siu Ho, Tony Ho) are hot on the trail of their number one suspect, Chan Kit (Juno Mak). When captured, he remains silent despite a torturous interrogation at the hands of his captors. Released without charge, he refuses to press charges against the detectives that assaulted him.
It’s the first act that works best, serving up a heady mix of murder, suspense and torture. There are no genuine surprises here, just a gloriously brutal introduction, and Mak goes someway to justifying his Best Actor Award with a restrained, engrossing and alluring portrayal of man teetering on the edge. The scene is set for a bruising night in, that’s the way it looks on paper at least, but Wong Ching Po has another encounter in mind. Having spent the first act trying to convince us that Revenge is a film about hatred, Wong changes direction completely, introducing both a character and storyline that revel in unconditional love. Unconditional what, you say? Well it is a love story about revenge after all.
This fresh perspective comes courtesy of a welcome flashback introducing Sola Aoi (Big Tits Zombie) and her put upon schoolgirl, Wing. The romance that blossoms between Kit and Wing is well intentioned, but as the film progresses Aoi is given less and less to do, unless of course you count being taken advantage of, shedding her clothes and looking rather simple. Her character is the films one true victim, but it’s a performance that barely registers. Wong seems more interested in bringing on the misery than immersing his characters in anything approaching warmth, personality or depth. It soon becomes clear that there’s nobody worth rooting for, even though like me you’ll probably find yourself siding with the baby killer. That’s how messed up this movie is, unconditional love gets lost in transit and hatred comes back to darken your door.
To be fair to Wong, the second act is entertaining enough. The love story may lose points for lacking true depth, but the twist in the tale is expertly sold and the scene is set for a grandstand finish positively drowning in the red stuff. Which is why it comes as such a huge disappointment when Revenge loses its way in the darkness. The final act is somewhat confused, offering little viewer satisfaction, just a series of action sequences pumped up by MTV style visuals. A gas station showdown - culminating in the kind of car stunt Jackie Chan would be proud of - feels particularly out of place, and the less said about the perplexing chapter titles the better. Someone needs to inform Wong that drowning a film in religious subtext adds very little, unless of course his uneven attempts at deep and meaningful are designed to smack of pretentious waffling. Sola Aoi’s first attempt at serious acting is pleasing to the eye, but she’s almost forgotten as the desire to shock takes over again, dancing all over the long abandoned need for narrative flow.
Revenge loses sight of its own goals at times, insisting in one scene that revenge is a bad thing, before revelling in the depravity of it all in the next. The ending is undoubtedly entertaining from a gore hounds perspective, but Wong’s desperation is evident in every frame, particularly with regards to a needless finale that puts the finishing touches on an overindulgent and undercooked night in. Wong Ching Po went on to say that, “Now the film is finished, everyone returns to their original life. It is my time to fade out from the film. Perhaps the best way out of hatred is to leave.” There’s a good chance you’ll be feeling the same way as the disappointing climax comes to a disengaging conclusion.
Revenge: A Love Story is entertaining enough on a superficial level, but it’s not as poetic as Wong would have us believe. The energetic opening, moody visuals and promising developments give way to pretentious mood swings and lacklustre storytelling. If you’re willing to overlook the jarring missteps there’s still plenty to enjoy, but in cranking up the volume way too high, Wong’s ill-conceived message is lost beneath a deafening stampede of gruesome action and wild excess.