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Some time ago, i wrote a series of reviews for several movies that signaled to me a rebirth of sort of Hong Kong cinema. One Night In Mongkok, Kung Fu Hustle, Dumplings and A World Without Thieves were all very good films that couldn't be more different from one another. It had been several years since so many good films came out of Hong Kong in such a short period of time, but of course, it could just also be a statistical aberration. More good movies need to come out this year and next to really signal Hong Kong's return on the scene of edgy Cinema. Divergence is a great movie, very much in the vein of last year's One Night In Mongkok. It's a stylish thriller, with great characters, a rich story, and some great action scenes.
Inspector Suen (Aafron Kwok) is a cop in charge of protecting a witness on his way back to Hong Kong. Everything goes according to plan. The witness gets off the plane and gets into a car on his way to the central police station when suddenly, out of nowhere, a bullet strikes him in the head. Obviously, Suen is quite shaken by this and swears to find the murderer. Coke (Daniel Wu) is a sexy smart and highly paid young hitman who then becomes a personal target for the vengeful cop. In a classic Hong Kong tale of good guys chasing bad guys, we discover slowly that the two men are connected, leading to quite a powerful end. Angelica Lee plays the role of the cop's girlfriend who died mysteriously several years ago. I myself was lead throughout the movie towards believing one thing, and was quite surprised by how it eventually came together. Finally, To (Ekin Cheng) is a lawyer for the mob and becomes involved in Suen's investigation.
Even if the story sounds fairly standard, it's interesting to see how the material was put together however and how the connection between the characters evolves over time to something quite karmic. I like it when seemingly disconnected people and events resolve into something quite bigger than each part. The characters are well rounded and driven to do whatever they do. You understand the cop's motives and come to appreciate the killer's nonchalance, even if it eventually leads him straight to his demise. They are not bound by honor or respect such as in the classic The Killer, but the assassin knows something about the cop that prevents him from just getting rid of him, a weakness that only gets revealed at the end. Only the character of To feels out of place in this story of a karmic triangle.
Acting-wise, Daniel Wu is good, as always. In the past few years, he has quickly become one of my favorite new Hong Kong actors. He has style, a great voice, and has played a number of complex roles across a range of registers. He is the highlight of the film. Aafron Kwok is also good, but he doesn't have as much magnetism. Angelica Lee plays a small role, but as a pivotal character in the story, and the centerpiece of the final denouement, she exerts a strong ghostly presence throughout the movie. Finally, Ekin Cheng unfortunately simply doesn't a strong enough role to make much of a mark.
Technically, the film is quite good in all respects. Cinematography and Art Direction are precise and as in One Night In Mongkok, gives you a feel as if you were there. Music-wise, it's fairly standard for a Hong Kong movie, meaning it's not great, but it's not bad either. The direction is clean giving you at times a good sense of intimacy between the characters, and at other times, a few great action scenes pitting the two men together in quite a fantastic way. The director is obviously concerned about the range of emotions between the two men and explores their every facet.
Divergence is a new movie that delivers in Hong Kong's great tradition of cops and killers flicks. It is a complex tale of two men separated by law, yet bound in profound ways. Normally, this binding is based on an official code of honor. Not so here. The two characters are bound in a karmic way that only becomes clear towards the end. Mixed with great action scenes and a rich narrative, the movie doesn't let go much through its running time of almost 2 hours. If you are a fan of the genre, get yourself a copy, which you can find pretty much in any Asian DVD store currently.
- Laurent Hasson