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Original Title:
Yi Ngoi

Hong Kong 2009

Crime, Thriller

Cheang Pou-Soi

Louis Koo
Richie Ren
Fung Shui-Fan
Michelle Ye
Lam Suet
Alexander Chan
Monica Mok
Han Yuqin

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aka Assassins

Story: Ho Kwok-fai (Louis Koo) is the leader of a clever criminal group that executes assassinations. However, these killers never dirty their hands in a conventional sense as the team surrounding Ho makes their killings look like accidents in order to avoid bothersome investigation by the police. Days of planning are necessary for this procedure, of course, as even the slightest of chances has to be put into the equation, but so far every assignment worked out smoothly. This changes one day, when something goes wrong and one of the team member gets killed in an accident during the operation. Ho almost became one of the accident's victims, too. He doesn't believe in coincidences, especially not when someone breaks into his apartment only shortly thereafter. He thinks that there might be a traitor within the own group and so he tails his last client who leads him to the insurance clerk Chan Fong-chow (Richie Ren). Chan seems to be hiding something and Ho slowly starts to uncover the truth...

Review: "Accident" isn't really the kind of movie you would expect of Cheang Pou-Soi, the director who brought us the very interesting "Dog Bite Dog" and the rather disappointing follow-up "Shamo". Instead he somewhat returns to his roots like his fabulous "Love Battlefield" and even gets more meditative while doing so. Furthermore, Johnnie To, who was involved in the making of the movie as a producer, certainly also did leave his handwriting in the end product, which makes this an at times thrilling, but in any way contemplative movie about accidents, chaos and karma. Yes, latter one isn't only a topic out of the head of To, but one of the guys from the Milkyway Creative Team, more than anyone else Szeto Kam-Yuen, who seemingly is responsible for the profound script-output of Hong Kong writers' these days all alone. Still, because of its very unique style this movie cannot be recommended to every viewer.

If you watch "Accident" you will inevitably feel reminded of "Final Destination". It's just that the strange freak accidents aren't conducted by an all powerful being like Death himself but by a group of contract killers. The film takes its time to look into the nature of chaos and coincidences. It's almost frighening in which ways murder is commited here, because if this worked out the way it is depicted in the movie, there would be numerous murder cases we don't even know of or would consider as such. Fortunately, the execution of such an "accident-killing" is so complex, time-consuming and influenced by so many incalculable coincidences that you wouldn't be able to pull that off in reality. As "Accident" tries to show the problems that go hand in hand with just said coincidences and irregularities, it's easier to forgive the fact that at other times it doesn't really care much about it anymore when karma comes into play.

Ho, whose wife died in a car accident, doesn't believe in coincidences and surely not in accidents. He himself had his hands in a "tragedy" one time too often. Thus, the film turns into a thriller that revolves around Ho's paranoia after the first half hour. It's thanks to Cheang's expertise when it comes to directing that everything on screen looks rather suspicious even if nothing is really happening at all. The tense atmosphere and the oftentimes missing dialogue, which is replaced by subtle character portrayal, create this impression which stands as the actual thrilling factor of the movie. Moreover, Cheang knows how to implement urban life in an especially repulsive and fascinating manner at the same time. The setting always makes an intense impression on the viewer and the sets are unique, so that there is a certain mood created at all times. This atmosphere also reflects the solitary and paranoid psyche of Ho, an atmosphere that is intensivied in numerous observation scenes.

However, especially the observation scenes can also put the audience's patience to a test. Those who are willing to dive into "Accident" and the mood it wants to create won't have a problem with that. Everyone else might get a bit bored by the at times slow pacing.
Technically, "Accident" is top-notch, sometimes even a little piece of art. It's not just the already mentioned sets that are exciting to watch, but also the lightning which proves Johnnie To's influence. But also concerning its subject the movie seems pretty thought-through, yet presents its ideas in a subtle way. Therefore it shouldn't be a surprise that "Accident" was invited to the Venice Film Festival, too. Cheang's work is without a doubt something special, even thoough it's argueable if the film is something for wide audiences as well.

Louis Koo delivers an amazingly introverted performance as Ho, but there is the same problem with him as with all the other characters. That is that we don't feel emotionally involved with them. To some extent this is also because we know nearly nothing about the private lives of these individuals. Of course, it also doesn't really help the sympathy level of the main characters that they are all contract killers. Moreover, the showdown presents us with too many calculated coincidences to be at least to some extent credible as it was the case in the other killings. Naturally, you could also argue that the ending is a bit stereotypical for a Milkyway-movie, too, but who really wants to lament about such small details? It's nice to see an inventive work coming out of Hong Kong every now and then, even if the pacing falls by the wayside despite a compact running time of 87 minutes. "Accident" is a film that will find its audience among fans of clever and tranquil thrillers which stands out because of its great pictures and sets.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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