Accident (2009)

Directed by: Soi Cheang
Written by: Szeto Kam-Yuen, Nicholl Tang & Milkyway Creative Team
Producer: Johnnie To
Starring: Louis Koo, Richie Ren, Michelle Ye & Stanley Fung

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Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2010
Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Ye)

Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2010:
Best Screenplay (Szeto Kam-Yuen, Nicholl Tang & Milkyway Creative Team)
Best Supporting Actor (Stanley Fung)
Best Editing (David Richardson)

There should be excitement in the air when Johnnie To trusts someone else other than HIMSELF or co-founder Wai Ka-Fai to get in the directing chair at Milkyway. Initially in 1996 that is what happened as one of their earliest productions (Beyond Hypothermia) was helmed by Patrick Leung. Patrick Yau is credited for three movies at the production company (The Odd One Dies, Expect The Unexpected and The Longest Nite) but it's well known Johnnie To directed (or strictly oversaw, call it what you will) large parts of the latter two. However other directors such as Derek Chiu (the man behind the quirky murder-comedy Comeuppance) and Lawrence Lau (who did the punishing youth drama Spacked Out) got to deliver something very much their own so with Dog Bite Dog director Soi Cheang on board for Accident, what vision is going to be contributed to the popular Milkyway catalogue? If anything I'm personally surprised and thrilled to see this thriller played out so slowly, so methodically and so clearly. I sense a Johnnie To watching over the production but a younger filmmaker getting his decisions on screen. Regardless, Accident is thrilling, SLOW stuff and a shining example of patience in the name of being concrete.

Consisting of Fai (Louis Koo), a nameless woman (Michelle Ye - The First 7th Night), Fatty (Lam Suet) and Uncle (Stanley Fung), they're a group staging accidents for clients wanting subjects taken out. When Fai is nearly run over a bus but Fatty dies instead, he firmly believes he was the target and now goes on a mission of his own to find out who wanted to stage his accident. The trails leads to an insurance agent (Richie Ren) and Fai moves in next door and bugs his apartment to gain a clear picture of what is going down...

While you do have to buy that the group is shown to be quite superhuman in their planning and that all stars align during their missions (eventually anyway in regards to the one that requires rain), that is no problem to buy as Soi Cheang is clearly not aiming for stylish realism. No, it's stylish movie realism, very much in the Milkyway tradition with mentioned rain, stylish lightning playing with the dark shadows and sparsely lit areas of characters. But as with a whole host of Johnnie To directed movies, Soi Cheang adheres to a tradition of treating the story with a quiet methodical touch. There's not a whole lot said or going on in Accident but the more simple of a template, the better in this case. Some smooth exposition about what the group does, are, what place in the world they have leads to quite clearly conveyed clues about Louis Koo's character.

The brain of the operation, fully in control of everything and only carrying emotions somewhat on the outside when in the comfort of his home and wife's arms, some of the aspects mentioned just now demands attention and needs to be kept in the back of your head because reveals later lifts Koo's Fai into a clearer, darker light. The only thing I can say is that the more rattled he gets, the sloppier he gets and essentially he's waiting for release. Now Soi Cheang is into areas where less is more, where simplicity in terms of inner emotions of characters rule supreme and it's quite affecting work. Even bigger moments have no score and even if they did, Xavier Jamaux's music is hardly noticeable, by design.

But Accident also works in slow suspense and Cheang showcases a fine eye for the moments leading up to the storm, punctuated by a trio of shockingly violent acts. With Louis Koo leading the frame largely alone and saying very little, the actor may be working still on a refined screen presence (one wish he would dare to change his hair for once) but he embodies Fai without a doubt. Quiet expression... that much Koo has learnt over the years and could go on to be an even more expressive actor given the right material. "Lucky Stars"-veteran and in a welcome return to something we didn't associate him with before, Stanley Fung is also very good as the senile elder of the group looked after by Fai. A confused, key character.

It is indeed another familiar, yet another independent ADDITION to the Milkyway catalogue dealing very slowly in paranoia, callous violence and concrete, simple character beats that makes for an immersing experience and it's for once not Johnnie To logging the premium work of the studio. It happened again... someone else did their own work for Milkyway.

The DVD (Mega Star):

Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen.

Audio: Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1.

Subtitles: English, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese.

Extras: 3 Making Of's (in total 12 minutes 11 seconds, Chinese subtitles only) and the trailer.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson