Devil Face, Angel Heart (2002)
Directed by: Billy Chung
It's The Elephant Man meets The Killer! Awesome pitch if there ever was one. In actual fact, flashy but a suitable guy to throw in there to make something decent out of your low budget, Billy Chung (coming of My Schoolmate, The Barbarian) makes this combo under the production wing (yes, I said wing, not wings) of Wong Jing (get the "joke" now?). In actual fact, the film overall does only contain elements of function to drive a basic movie forward but at least we get a slick time to go along with this quick fix of fair effect.
No, Daniel Wu's deformed Lon is not discovered being abused by carnival people but he is a prime assassin under über-evil gangster Dragon (Patrick Keung). Taken care of by Kwan (Lam Suet), they have foolish high hopes that someday they are going to live lives. As most depraved gangsters possess, Wendy (Gigi Lai) is the sex-toy of Dragon's choice, with beating and torture to go along with her set role but she finds comfort in Lon's arms. To the extent that they hatch a plan to be together and eliminate Dragon during a Taiwan mission. Many things go wrong and the naive Lon realizes he's been duped. Presumed to be dead, one year later he turns up... for revenge!
A cheapness is undeniably resting over the production. However the combo of Wong Jing and Billy Chung in a way focuses on being good ol's exploitation/heroic bloodshed filmmakers but trying to show that they've learnt a thing or two about visuals. So the world as depicted is immediately filled with blood shot in slow motion and depravity that doesn't end on merely mentioning stuff. Also there's the totally naive character of Lon at center that learns that cynicism is the best way to go about things once you've stepped into this world and for the film (and films in general) Devil Face, Angel Heart, it's fun to see matters being taken to shameless, politically incorrect levels.
While not featuring an arsenal of kickass gunplay, Billy Chung works some slick magic out of a few scenes, opting for an over the top style but definitely a clear look at the proceedings which is only hampered by the fact that the filmmakers can't/won't go overly acrobatic on us. The gunplay is quiet, still but STILL, we cheer when we get any sort of look at it in the new millennium. Heavily cut at points, it's clear also that Billy Chung had more on-screen torture in mind but apparently couldn't afford to slip into Category III territory. We know the intent despite and that's worth cheering for too.
But it all only makes for a passable diversion to admire at points because in all honesty, there's not much refined storytelling going on here. The movie had to have been much more elaborate in the action- and violence department to make us forget that but any story element introduced, especially the cop played by Stephen Fung, mainly acts as string to connect scenes basically and the movie ultimately comes off as thinking it's better than it is. I know the real truth but I'm still fairly glad this slight display of trashy filmmaking is on Billy Chung's resume.
Mei Ah presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.74:1 approximately, with anamorphic enhancement. Clear and clean, the budget seems to reflect in the transfer as there's no eye popping stuff here. Soft looking also but very functional.
The Cantonese (with some usage of Mandarin) Dolby Digital 1.0 track sounds clear for all intents and purposes. A Mandarin Dolby Digital 1.0 track is also included.
The English subtitles suffers from a fair amount of spelling- and grammar errors but are coherent on the whole. Traditional and simplified subtitles are also available. Extras are limited to trailers for Devil Face, Angel Heart, The Wesley's Mysterious File, Love Undercover and Mei Ah's useless Databank (containing the plot synopsis from the dvd case and a sparse cast & crew listing).
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson