The Pye-Dog (2007)
Directed by: Derek Kwok
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Dui (Eason Chan) has only the triad lifestyle in his life, that uses his skills of taking apart and putting things together for their arsenal of guns. When he's sent by his boss Cha (Eric Tsang) into a school to kidnap the boy of a rival triad boss, Dui finds himself drawn to his mute target Lam Chi Wang (Wen Jun-Hui). Also fitting into the company of the characters happy to share feelings of loss, is Lam's Mandarin teacher Ms. Cheung (Gia Lin) who is harboring a secret of her own...
Apparently it helped to be around Wilson Yip and this year's most highly regarded newcomer Derek Kwok has otherwise been contributing less than stellar writing (Skyline Cruisers) and in-tune words when collaborating with Yip (2002, The Mummy, Aged 19). Flash forward to 2007 and bit by bit, stories of a newcomer making ripples at festivals with The Pye-Dog would spark us Hong Kong cinema fanatic's, through thick and thin, radar of interest. It's still not all about action and won't be for a long time or ever so please people, you're possibly making your biggest mistake by dismissing the cannon of local films out of Hong Kong. Derek Kwok's The Pye-Dog will hopefully spark extensively, into a blaze even, and it damn well deserves it.
It seems Kwok and co-writer Lung Man-Hong glanced just a little bit at the one the former was being an understudy to as some segments of The Pye-Dog could be tracked back to Wilson Yip's Juliet In Love. But it's more on a basic level and Kwok debuts wisely by not letting character-study be more than pretty much basic. Oh the greatest masterpieces of our time have not exceeded their templates but there lies a smartness in the way Kwok handles himself. The end result is therefore promising with a capital P but with some very slight evidence of a virgin director at work.
The Pye-Dog is a movie or a game of colours. Kwok's characters are really amongst some of the craziest situations any drama has offered up this year. Deteriation resides internally but way more externally as surroundings are literally falling apart. Is it some future on display here where we're reduced to live through the crumbling nature of our society or what? Probably not but it makes for some funny and off-beat observations worthy of inclusion. But some otherworldly nature to the film doesn't stop itself as Lam Chi Wang in voice over explains that a fairy tale made him stay mute while other real matters such as broken hearts and abandonment will remain firmly in place in center of the film. The grays and greens as captured by DOP O Sing-Pui talks very loudly of what director Kwok is trying to achieve and visual style is certainly a tad over the top in some instances, with the changing of aspect ratios being one element uncalled for. But Kwok doesn't let his intentions crumble overall as the visualist take over, no sir.
The Pye-Dog is drama-template 1A yet takes its time to be gripping, by choice. It's a matter of us waiting for what moods that are to be established but it's soon very simple. The characters of Dui, Lam Chi Wang and Ms. Cheung lack colour in their lives so amidst the three, they light up each others lives. Corny eh? Well, by the end it sort of feels like it's a new kid that has told us an affecting but old story. Affecting nonetheless though and being a trio of characters responsible for adding ANY colour into the society, especially via the Christmas stage build made of the cheapest spare parts you could ever find, it's in particular the crafty Dui who get to use his creativity and stray from the triad world making his decisions for him. But at what cost does this venture into warmth come with? The trio certainly never become one thing as the story ain't about parenthood, brotherhood, sisterhood or awakening. It's everything combined and bound together by circumstance means they might be separated by circumstance too.
It's towards the ending sentiments that Derek Kwok doesn't surprise us anymore but through the interaction of his leads that sells the journeys that Kwok saw in his head, it's no wonder The Pye-Dog comes across as something creative, fresh and touching within the cinema output that otherwise plays it very much safe. Kwok is allowed to indulge in montages set to music with overly apparent messages but again, he makes the fine choice to start fresh and in an elementary way. You can't be and you shouldn't be king of the cinema world after one stroke of magic. Fortunately and perhaps unfortunately though, The Pye-Dog stands out as a king but I'm sure Derek has tricks left to share despite his newly found status.
Mei Ah presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with anamorphic enhancement. Sharp and presenting the stylized colours well, the transfer is hard to complain about.
Audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 but as I'm not equipped with such a system, my assessment of this disc aspect will be left off this review.
The English subtitles read well and contain only minor errors. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available.
Extras include a 19 minute, 51 second Making Of (no subtitles) that with its mix of interviews and behind the scenes footage is pretty useless for those of us in need of subtitles. Also available is the trailer and Mei Ah's useless Databank.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson