Paramount Motel (2000)

Directed by: Billy Chung
Written by: Simon Loui
Producers: Raymond Wong & Ng Kin-Hung
Starring: Simon Loui, Wayne Lai, Pinky Cheung, Ti Lung, Ada Choi, Pauline Chan, Chapman To, Edmond Pang, Jason Chu, Samuel Leung & Cheung Tat-Ming

Prostitute Wyman (Pauline Chan - Escape From Brothel, From Beijing With Love) is found brutally murdered at the motel where she conducts her business. Heading the case is hard working Pang (Simon Loui). Interrogating staff such as motel owner Li (Ada Choi - Once Upon A Time In Triad Society 2) and fellow hooker Lisa (Pinky Cheung - Devil Touch) begins the formation of what is, as these things go, a more complex, internal puzzle, leading all the way up to the girl's boss Sun (Ti Lung). It even involves Pang's colleague Cheung (Wayne Lai). How and why though? Questions Pang must take on while at the same time himself suffering inner turmoil as he can't confront his wife about their problems...

While his whole self is also largely part of the low-budget horror explosion Hong Kong has been occupying themselves with, mainly via the long running Troublesome Night-series, Simon Loui has also been a creative writing- and acting force at Buddy Film Creative Workshop together with director Billy Chung (1*). Aspiring to be little more than passable B-movie filmmakers, via efficiency, the grade noticeable manifests itself at times. Paramount Motel is one of those times. The combined efforts of Loui's writing and Chung's semi-decent skills for tension and visual style gets the pair about half way through the film. Then much crumbles.

Giving us very little of what the picture holds in its poster art, Loui himself paints a world of sedation. Cops are on constant overtime on his watch, leading to even the goriest, harshest interrogations in the world being very low-key. The world has somewhat come to this, where you're punching your fists bloody in order to please your superiors. Because the characters are, as per police procedure thrillers, poorly connected to their home lives by the time we meet them. Pang has even hired a private investigator (Cheung Tat-Ming) to spy on his wife and even though there's picture evidence of her cheating, Pang observes in his dignified (masking as tormented) way that perhaps he abandoned her a long time ago anyway. A marriage based more on respect than love, Billy Chung works with Simon's script and delivers rare poignancy when shining a light on this personal issue, even with all clichés apparent. Loui is not a particularly profound writer and has found himself probably liking to act stone cold and reserved but his choices latches quite well onto the drama, especially in the little things like Pang's wife asking him not to frown as much. Magic can be found here and Loui certainly responds on screen as well by breaking the wall of the character in a subtle way.

If only the actual murder plot of Paramount Motel held interest all the way, then Buddy Film Creative Workshop might've had their finest gem here. Choosing stylish lighting for no particular good reason but working well with it as we take out first steps into the multi-character puzzle, Billy feels comfortable with Loui's calm, dedicated character whose mind never turns off. The interrogations reveal something off in character confessions, a simplicity to explanations while Pang quietly absorbs each nuance. The eventual danger here is that of piling too much events and connected characters upon each other, creating a muddled narrative in the process. Literally, the film steps into that mud and it sort of happens in a vital Simon Loui/Wayne Lai scene where we're no longer particularly sucked into the plot related dialogue.

So from a point, Paramount Motel goes on a form of autopilot where explanations and events are merely clear to the makers themselves while we just take in what's given to us without giving dedication back. No "ooooh's" or spine-tingling revelations exists here, just ultimately an "oh well" and sadly a "whatever" as we watch the final pieces to the puzzle being laid to rest. It's easy to respect Simon Loui's attempt to balance character and plot equally but the concrete and worthwhile ideas doesn't last a feature. When they run out, Billy Chung can't bring any left over material to life so boring, pedestrian storytelling takes center stage instead. Characters are looking for release ultimately in Chung's frame but perhaps fine-tuning their low-budget exercises BEFORE releasing a film crew onto the Hong Kong streets is perhaps what Buddy Film Creative Workshop should focus on. Doesn't make their catalogue unworthy overall and elements of Paramount Motel certainly are.

The DVD:

Widesight presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.74:1. Having sourced a cinema print, it has heavier wear at a few points and doesn't score well overall as it leans towards a pale palette, not solely by design.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 remix of the original mono track I won't elaborate as I'm not equipped with such a system but I did have to turn the center channel all the way up to make dialogue appear centered. A Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also included.

The Chinese/English subtitles are burned onto the print and contains pretty consistent, medium drops into ropey grammar and spelling. They are readable at all times except for a few seconds where they're displayed against a white background. There are no extras.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson

(1) Giving us efforts such as The Cheaters, Killer as well as producing Nightmares In Precinct 7, Killing End and City Of SARS.