Judge Bill Gibron loves to be spoon-fed a lukewarm bowl of Dickens' brand gruel.
Our review of Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics II, published June 30th, 2010, is also available.
In revenge, there's a fine line between life and death.
Wong (Nick Chueng, Election) has just been released from prison after serving time for the murder of a young girl. When the father of said victim, a famous concert pianist, turns up dead and horribly mutilated, our ex-con is immediately made prime suspect numero uno. This is good news for melancholy cop George Lam (Simon Yam, Ip Man). Carrying around his own tragic past—his wife committed suicide, though he remains convinced she was murdered—he now has a complicated relationship with a teenage daughter (Cherry Ngan) from whom he's estranged. When Wong gets a job at a music school, he becomes obsessed with a young girl named Zoe (Janice Man, Frozen). When her dad also turns up dead, Lam has no choice but to go after the cagey convict. Naturally, such an obvious connection countermands the actual identity of the killer.
A critic more thoughtful than yours truly once said that the difference between a great movie and a merely mediocre one can be gauged by the level of immersion. If you feel like you have gone along on a wonderful cinematic journey, a slightly ambiguous trip full of intrigue and insights that allows you to participate in the plot dynamics, then you've experienced something close to art. On the other hand, if you have everything spelled out for you in Shawn Levy-like exposition, how to think and how to feel telegraphed and retold like a toddler being warned about the open flame on a stove, the movie magic is lost. In fact, the lack thereof causes the experience to implode, having you go so far as to question the medium all together. Nightfall is such a by-the-hand drag. After opening with power and panache, the film falls into a pattern of verbal repetition that would make even the most chatty teen tell the characters to shut the hell up!
It all starts with the script, a middling murder mystery which doesn't have the first clue about how to unravel said whodunit to its audience. Instead, it figures everyone is struggling with single digit IQs and then spoon feeds each revelation to them like gruel to a Dickens child. This is a film that looks amazing, that offers an atmosphere brimming with potential tension and dread. Then the main characters open their mouths and everything starts to atrophy. Perhaps screenwriters Christine To and Chow Hin Yeung Roy (who also directed) misunderstood the meaning of "red herrings." You're not supposed to throw so many possibilities at the viewer that the obvious omissions stand out. Granted, the filmmaking cannot be flawed for offering up a visually arresting experience, but the overall reveal is handled so poorly and the denouement so anticlimactic that you really wish you hadn't taken the time. If style can succeed over substance, someone should have told Nightfall. Instead, any flash offered is fatal to the final resolution.
As a Blu-ray presentation from Well Go USA, Nightfall looks great. Shot digitally, the 1080p/2.35:1 image offers sharp contrast, excellent detail levels, and a whole lot of post-production color correction. In fact, there are times with the optical tweaks take away from what Chow Hin Yeung Roy is going for. On the sound side of things, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is excellent. There is also a Stereo option, but stick with the multichannel mix. It offers up a nice level of spatial ambience and true aural pyrotechnics when some of the more action-oriented moments kick in. As for added content, we get a decent making-of and a trailer. That's it. The behind the scenes stuff is interesting, but tends toward the repetitious.
Unless you need every facet of a mystery spelled out for you in constant dogged reminders, you'll probably find Nightfall a chore. It's a decent film from a purely artistic standpoint. The plot, on the other hand, will have you hoping for a prison shower filled with wannabe assassins.
Guilty. Good to look at. Insulting to your cinematic intelligence.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go USA
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