All Of A Sudden (1996)
Directed by: Herman Yau
Stella, the wife of Tung (Simon Yam) commits suicide one night and this prompts him to plan a kidnapping scheme. The objects are the wife and kid of the man Stella had an affair with. Namely Lam (Alfred Cheung) and his unsuspecting wife Ho-Yee (Irene Wan). Along the way truths are revealed that makes Ho-Yee doubt her safety in the hands of Lam and when the ransom money isn't spend on her but on a large investment, her loyalties shift...
Oh, an unheard of Herman Yau venture into Category III yet again! With The Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome behind him, this will probably be a field day for fans! However, dvd publishers Widesight have spread two covers onto the market, one with the Cat III rating and the other with Cat IIb (I got the III). The actual truth most likely leans towards the latter despite a fairly graphic sex scene but oh well...not that quality can't be found in Herman Yau's moviemaking below that rating. On the contrary, the 2004 output may not suggest it but you just have to look up the actual quality as it varies heavily from movie to movie, from year to year. All Of A Sudden echoes my feeling about most of Yau filmography. Decent, not in any way overly accomplished but he more than often beats Wong Jing in the quality department!
The thriller structure of All Of A Sudden is your movie of the week plot with twists and turns to keep you awake but Yau brings efficiency to this low-budget and quickly made production. With efficiency I mean that no originality or plot developments that you haven't seen before occur yet Yau engages despite working with familiarity of the highest degree. Mind you, Yau with a low budget usually creates a somewhat stale atmosphere and it's no different here.
When the biggest stylistic trait is the addition of post production slow-motion, you know you're not in for a great visual ride but a movie that relies on its narrative. Which in itself has not been Yau's strong suit throughout the years but at the best of times, his focus and dedication gets us through the 90 minutes. And there's no shame in landing on that mark of quality. All Of A Sudden does suffer from its poor origins initially as it plods along on autopilot for a good first third of the film. Add onto that a dangerous venture into comic relief in the form of Dayo Wong, and the surface is suddenly very slippery for the filmmakers. Thankfully, the script dictates that Dayo merely is a lighter presence in the long run, not a full on comedic relief one and when all seems well for the characters plot-wise, Candy Cheng's writing begins to twist enough to warrant our attention.
It still is plotting that isn't so much expected but seen. If Yau and company wanted to create a thriller classic, I bet they probably would have and planned this project out much, much more far ahead. All Of A Sudden isn't one of those productions but I'm the first to admire Herman Yau for dedicating himself to a degree where the viewer really wants to sit through all up till the final frame.
Herman's own additions and the aspects that works best for the film take place during the final 20 minutes as the detours into dark and frankly shocking low-budget violence registers as quite effective. Yau of course also a veteran cinematographer lends his eye to simple but powerful visuals but he's also one of those directors that rarely let his eye get the best of him when directing, which is also cause for admiration.
Amongst the trio of main actors on board, it's Simon Yam who brings the most texture, even if it isn't much. Tung is clearly out of his element as a kidnapper and obviously not such a bad guy. Just one now hellbent on getting some form of revenge in his mindless ways. Along the way, director Yau does keep us guessing about the true nature of his actions, as does he with the entire trio of characters but it's Yam who adds the only subtlety to this film. Irene Wan admirably tries and while she doesn't make a fool out of herself in any way, there's not enough experience in Wan for a character like this. All Of A Sudden definitely wants to be powerful but also needed all round powerful acting, which it doesn't have. Finally, Alfred Cheung threatens to be effective as probably the most devious character in the film and while his limited range certainly fits the bill, it's still a stiff act.
Herman Yau's thriller stalls at that famous decent level that quite a few of his movies end up on. Yet, to take seemingly tired and doomed material, quickly shoot it to get some bucks in but dedicate yourself as a narrator deserves kudos in its minor form. You've seen All Of A Sudden but it's not a chore or a waste of time as a suspense thriller.
Widesight presents the film in a letterboxed ratio of 1.73:1 approximately. Colours are fairly strong but the transfer comes with softness and a generally murky appearance. True to form then for Widesight.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 track doesn't leave the center channel once but effects, music and dialogue come through nicely. A Mandarin 5.1 dub is also included.
The imbedded Chinese/English subtitles has a few amusing errors but remain helpful nonetheless. They go missing during brief dialogue that takes place over the main credits though. There are no extras unless you want to count the Chinese language plot synopsis as an extra....didn't think so.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson