ContactSales: China Film, Beijing ([email protected])
Theatrical release: China, 8 Aug 2013.
Presented by United Power Media (CN), Guangzhou Starmos Cultural Development Agency (CN), Shanghai Inlook Media & Advertising (CN), Qingdao Generoad Real Estate (CN), Beijing Taiyao Cultural Workshop (CN), China Film (CN), in association with China Movie Channel (CN), Yantai TV (CN). Executive producers: Li Zhenyu, Xiao Yuanxiong, Chen Xiangrong, Guo Cheng, Huang Xiaoming, Han Sanping. Producers: Zheng Xin, Zhao Haicheng.
Script: Lola Huo, Gao Qunshu. Novel: Hai Yan (1994). Photography: Arthur Wong. Editing: Yu Dong. Music: Shu Nan. Art direction: Xiao Haikang. Styling: Man Lim-chung. Sound: Long Xiaozhu. Action: Chen Fei. Visual effects: Chen Fei.
Cast: Angelababy (Lü Yueyue), Huang Xiaoming (Xue Yu), Jae Hui (Kim Jeong-hui), Wei Zi (Captain Wu Lichang), Ni Dahong (Jiao, retired detective), Heo Jun-ho (Kim Jeong-tae, Jeong-hui's elder brother), Meng Tingyi (Xiao Ma, detective), Cao Weiyu, Su Qing.
Crimes of Passion 一場風花雪月的事
Contemporary crime drama
2013, colour, 2.35:1, 113 mins
Directed by Gao Qunshu (高群書)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 23 August 2013, 19:45 PM (HKT)
Wannabe noirish crime drama collapses from a feeble script and zero chemistry. Asian events at best.
Shenzhen, southern China, Jul 2008. The city's Major Crimes Division of the Public Security Bureau has received fresh news from Hong Kong about an old case (one of the bureau's biggest) involving the theft of a national treasure, the Golden Buddha statuette, back in 2000. (The case, handled by now-retired detective Jiao [Ni Dahong], who is seriously ill, was never solved.) The Buddha was in the hands of Kim, one of Hong Kong's most notorious Korean triads, but Kim has recently been killed and his gang taken over by his elder son, Kim Jeong-tae (Heo Jun-ho). When Kim Jeong-hui (Jae Hui), the younger son educated in Cambridge, arrives from the UK followed by hired assassins, the MCD team rescues him, with young detective Lü Yueyue (Angelababy), who's been with the MCD only 18 months, saving the day. To the chagrin of more experienced detective Xue Yu (Huang Xiaoming), Yueyue is made team head by Captain Wu Lichang (Wei Zi), and she and Xue Yu are assigned to protect the unco-operative Jeong-hui. Yueyue gets to know Jeong-hui while showing him around the city, and he claims he'd always wanted to be independent from his family's criminal activities. Jeong-hui also tries to romance her, and Xue Yu, partly from jealousy, warns her to stay professional. After Yueyue gets drunk one evening with Jeong-hui, Captain Li Xianghua tries to get her removed from the MCD, but she's given another chance by Captain Wu. Jeong-hui takes her out for a splashy birthday dinner and on the way back assassins try to kill them both in a car chase. Yueyue is carpeted again, but suddenly Jeong-hui changes his tune and agrees to help the police. He contacts his brother, who agrees to hand over the Buddha to Japanese yakuza Kanemura Hideo, the Kim family's sworn rival who's always coveted the statuette, so the police can arrest him and retrieve the artefact. But not everything goes to plan.
Shot almost three years ago — from late 2010 to spring 2011 — Crimes of Passion 一場風花雪月的事 (2013) would have been better left missing presumed dead for the sake of all concerned. A wannabe noirish crime melodrama that teams Mainland actor HUANG Xiaoming 黃曉明 (then a fast-rising film star after making a name on TV) with young Shanghai-born, Hong Kong-based model Angelababy 楊穎 (who'd just made her acting mark in Hot Summer Days 全城熱戀 (2010)), Crimes must have looked like a sure bet at the time. Director GAO Qunshu 高群書 had worked with Huang on espionage hit The Message 風聲 (2009), the source material was a 1994 novel by Mainland author HAI Yan 海岩 that had already spawned the TV drama A Sentimental Story (一場風花雪月的事), the scriptwriter was Lola HUO 霍昕 (Shower 洗澡 (1999), Quitting 昨天 (2001), Driverless 無人駕駛 (2010)), and it didn't hurt one bit that the two stars were romantically involved.
The result, unfortunately, is a feebly written, often ridiculously plotted police drama that tries to "internationalise" the original story by introducing South Korean and Japanese gangsters, changes the stolen artefact from a valuable old violin to the "national treasure" of a Golden Buddha statuette, and never finds a proper balance between its crime and romantic elements. The original novel is more a love story disguised as a crime yarn, and over 20 episodes the TV adaptation at least had the time to build characters and emotions. Gao's film is more a crime drama with some romance tossed in, and is entirely unconvincing on either level.
In what was her first leading role, Angelababy looks cute but is spectacularly miscast as a Major Crimes detective, with neither the acting experience nor the screen heft; Huang, actually second-billed, has little to do except use his trademark intense stare, light cigarettes, and hang around on the margins while Angelababy's rookie cop blunders around; and South Korea's JAE Hui 재희 | 在熙, best known for his lead in KIM Ki-duk 김기덕 | 金基德's 3-Iron 빈집 (2004), is bland and charmless as the male rival for the rookie's heart. With all their scenes in stilted English, Jae Hui and Angelababy strike zero sparks; more surprising is the equally low wattage between her and Huang, though the script, with its perfunctory dialogue, is equally to blame.
After a promisingly moody start — aided by veteran Hong Kong d.p. Arthur WONG 黃岳泰's trusty photography — almost nothing works on a dramatic or psychological level. A 10-minute, setpiece car chase — almost the only action sequence in the film — is chaotically (if noisily) staged. The Shenzhen detectives hardly act as if they're members of the city's Major Crimes Division. And Angelababy's cop is not only asked to "look after" Jae Hui's Korean suspect on company time but also, for some unexplained reason, is given one after another second chance by her boss (grizzled veteran WEI Zi 巍子) when she keeps fouling up and supposedly falls for the mysterious Korean.
Just when the plot couldn't get more illogical or unlikely, the film switches locations to scenic Shangri-La, in Yunnan province — a 1,000-mile journey apparently reached while Angelababy's detective was asleep in the car. After a lame finale there, the movie careens on to a coda outside Beijing that literally has to be seen to be believed.
After The Message (co-directed with Taiwan's CHEN Kuo-fu 陳國富), Gao's career had already blipped with the weakly written action drama Wind Blast 西風烈 (2010), shot prior to Crimes, but he's since powered back with the gritty, docudrama-like Beijing Blues 神探亨特張 (2012). As Crimes shows, Gao is at his weakest when handling straightforward generic fare, and China as a whole still lacks a strong seam of big-screen crime drama to take on Hong Kong or South Korea, with the genre still at its best on TV.
The 1997 TV version, directed by ZHAO Baogang 趙寶剛, starred XU Jinglei 徐靜蕾 (prior to her film career), JIANG Wu 姜武 and Taiwan's LIU Han-chiang 劉漢強. The original Chinese title, which underlines the story's emotional focus, is a flowery phrase meaning A Romantic Affair. For the record, Crimes is the second of three movies Huang worked on a while ago that are finally being released this summer. Taiwan fantasy-comedy Saving Mother Robot 瑪德２號 (2013), shot in summer 2011, was released in August and basketball/computer game drama Amazing 神奇 (2012), which Huang started shooting in Aug 2010 (prior to Crimes), will finally hit screens in September after premiering at the Shanghai Film Festival in June.