The Saviour (1980)
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Following his co-directed and problematic debut The Servants with another similar genre dip in the form of The Saviour, Ronny Yu went into business with Pearl City who had produced the excellent Cops And Robbers (Alex Cheung) the year before. Very apparently adopting a straightforward and what could almost be argued to be Western style of filmmaking, Yu on his own still creates an exciting vehicle with sporadic, subtle depth.
There's something very intentional in the opening of montage of Inspector Tom's (King Hu regular Pai Ying) morning routines that means suiting up with your gun and cigarette before going out. And The Saviour is indeed the portrait of a cop that must make his life choices. Being stuck with a serial killer case with prostitutes as victims and meeting little Shui Man once a week at the local orphanage, someone must shift in favour of the other. Tom must chose who he is.
Now... Ronny Yu isn't overly apparent and way too arty with these themes and character-choices but that is the biggest positive in a vehicle where you can chose to pick up on Alfred Cheung's added nuances to the thriller-script. Because we're very much in the cop movie as clichéd scenes starts playing out such as Tom chasing a bad guy across a rooftop, getting yelled out by his boss for being too trigger happy and being assigned a new partner, 19 (an underused Kent Cheng). Add on top of that a background to our murderer Paul that deals with hatred towards his father (Tien Feng) and women after witnessing his mother's suicide. A disturbing household indeed.
It's a drive for The Saviour that presents matters in a welcome gritty fashion, portrays police work very slowly and most importantly, Pai Ying's Tom as a character we both could criticize for being cold but also very perceptive in his ways. He's not screaming and suffering inside but wishes for the often told dream of having a family. Being a single father is not an option and when the boy at the orphanage gets into fights and seemingly echoes the violent crime fighter, is Tom therefore condemned as a father figure? Tom crosses lines for sure, is forced into corners but this needle in a haystack chase for a violent murderer brings out a crime fighter worthy of status. Cool and emotionless IS a virtue.
Throughout Ronny Yu injects the narrative with smooth decisions and keeps the pace at a suitable slow pace to match the police work and when you think he's guilty of glossing over certain details, it makes sense/is acceptable too. Especially again in the sub-plot about his possible fatherhood but there will be wisdom given after grit is shown and blood is spilt. As a straight-forward, no nonsense and very stylish thriller, The Saviour engages. For its devotion to a stock-character, it's being enhanced all till the last frame.
Pearl City presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.70:1 approximately. Featuring specks almost all throughout and faded colours that turns the whole movie brown almost (darker scenes retain better colours), the print is thoroughly watchable though and flaws adds to the tone of the film.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track has got some hiss and as detractions but does its job well overall.
The Chinese/English subtitles are imbedded but presents a very coherent translation. A handful of scenes are slightly harder to read due to white backgrounds. There are no extras.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson