Fatal Love (1993)

Written & directed by: Lo Gin
Producer: Bennie Chan
Starring: Ellen Chan, Michael Wong, Maria Cordero, Karel Wong, Charlie Ng, David Siu

After being thrown out of the police academy, Debbie Fung (Ellen Chan - Doctor Vampire, The Eternal Evil Of Asia) gets a new chance but instead the proposition is to go undercover. Accepting the mission to get close to tycoon Lau Fuk Tin (Michael Wong) as he's suspected of a number of murders of women, under the disguise of Maryanne, Debbie quickly gets close to Lau. Going so far as getting almost permanent residence with the man, Debbie witness horrific things on the grounds. Despite, affection starts to develop towards her target...

Lo Gin (Banana Spirit, The Heartbeat 100) writes and directs a well timed thriller. Timing being good to make a movie in an era in Hong Kong where the Category III rating was utilized extensively (often for real life crime depiction on the big screen though) and a few years earlier, the erotic thriller got a mainstream upswing in the West via Paul Verhoeven's Basic Instinct. Despite bearing traits though of a pretty stale, quick entry done for the sake of getting nudity up on screen, Fatal Love gives the cheapo cinema of its kind an upswing via sound visual style, extreme sexual violence and fair tension.

Though showing no positive signs akin to that early as Ellen Chan appears in a shower scene, Lo Gin has given us fragments early of latter events in the film that means darkness and a possible lethal outcome for our lead character. The blurry cam isn't a particularly inspiring showcase for this but not even Wong Kar-Wai could make it come off as as anything but lazy and intrusive in that regard. Throwing out such pretensions soon, Lo Gin doesn't inspire when the superiors training Ellen Chan's characters are way to goofy for a serious exercise in the genre but Chan does give us confidence that she will serve the material well when she's asked to act as different types of girls in front of her teachers. So the keywords of not getting emotionally attached are uttered and we know that will be a notion not exercised, what Lo Gin manages to infuse Fatal Love with via probably few tools (the fragmented opening probably is THE tool) is a sexual tension as Debbie and Lau are brought together on-screen. Debbie and Lau run together, exercise together, sweat together and this is fairly well done tension because we also expect a beast to be hidden... in Michael Wong (?!?!). Well, he's a weak performer, dubbed (even though his dubber seems to want to echo Michael's usual switch between Cantonese and English) but his wide-eyed psycho acting techniques are endlessly entertaining. Having said that in general negative aspect of his acting, it all does not detract from the grim violence on the horizon.

Lo Gin doesn't pull any punches and seems to get away with A LOT more than Hong Kong censors usually allow, despite playing within the Category III rating. In particular the sadistic sex scenes, involving in one case force feeding of broken glass and what must be 20+ bloody stabs with a broken bottle run for extensive periods of time. A tool to snap audience right out of a potential slumber, Lo Gin manages to argue to push this way for his showcase of nightly, behind closed doors acts of grimness. This puts Debbie in the expected vulnerable position and it's a shame this rookie undercover seems rather doomed from this point on. Especially when Lau Fuk Tin intrudes into her real life.

Fatal Love is effective, morally questionable exploitation of course but also overall an unusually tight thriller with highly effective detours into grim and sadistic (often sexual) violence. Ellen Chan continues throughout to anchor the film decently and even though Michael Wong is highly laughable, there's no doubt director Lo Gin taps into something oddly effective despite his performance being cartoonish at the same time. Not lacking steam nor painful moments, Fatal Love is more of what you should call premium fodder from the exploitation era of 90s Hong Kong cinema. Even premium fodder was uneven but undeniably had effect.

The DVD (Universe):

Video: 1.74:1 non-anmorphic widescreen.

Audio: Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0.

Subtitles: English, traditional Chinese (imbedded).

Extras: Stars' Files with biographies/filmographies for Ellen Chan and Michael Wong.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson