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Beyond Hypothermia - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Sip si 32 doe

Hong Kong 1996

Thriller, Drama, Action

Patrick Leung

Wu Chien Lien
Lau Ching Wan
Han Sang-woo
Shirley Wong

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Beyond Hypothermia

Story: A nameless female assassin (Wu Chien Lien) has nearly no contact to the outside world. She is never in one place for more than three months, has no friends and neither does she know anything about her family nor about her family background in general. Her only contact person is an "aunt" (Shirley Wong) who gives her the assignments.
One day she sees the noodle shop of Long Shek (Lau Ching Wan) across the street of her apartment. From that day on she decides to make a stop there to eat something after every finished job. Shek is fascinated by the mysterious beauty and approaches her very carefully at first, but to no avail. However, eventually the nameless killer opens up a bit more to Shek and the thought crosses her mind to end her career as an assassin.
That is just when Yichin (Han Sang-woo), the bodyguard of a killed Korean gangster boss, comes to Hong Kong to avenge the death of his boss. Through the "aunt" of the killer he tries to get to the nameless woman. The killer realizes that it seems impossible for her to escape her destiny and escape into a normal life with Shek. A bloody showdown seems to be inevitable...

Review: "Beyond Hypothermia" was released during a time when the successful heroic bloodshed genre was way past its prime. Patrick Leung, being protégé of John Woo, actually delivers an outstanding representative of a genre believed to be dead, which for unknown reasons was under my radar for all these years. Maybe that is because the movie, and unrightly so, wasn't that successful at the box office at the time. And this even though Leung refrains from copying all too much from his grand teacher Woo, but instead manages to create a movie on his own - with more of a character-exploring focal point. You still shoulnd't expect a profound drama, though. Making up for that are some pretty nice action sequences.

Beyond Hypothermia - Film Screenshot 11

Counting among the more negative aspects is the story. The story around a killer, who suddenly grows a conscience and yearns for a normal life, looks too familiar. But at least our killer is in fact a lady, which bestows something more refreshing among the subject. Although there have of course already been succussful movies with a female professional killer in the lead, you just need to think of Luc Besson's "Nikita".
However, what's interesting is that our protagonist actually doesn't have any pricks of conscience. She finishes her jobs in an incredibly coldblooded and target-oriented manner. Even little children aren't spared. No matter how shocking that might prove for the viewer you get the feeling to be treated in an honest way. Emotions seem to be something alien to the mysterious stranger who has no name or family. That her body temperature is five degrees below that of a normal human is just an appropriate allegory. Then, a simple noodle shop owner seems to be able to slowly unfreeze the woman from within.

Lau Ching Wan is that very noodle shop owner who tries in a very simple, almost childish way to conquer the heart of this withdrawn woman. You can instantly make out that his character has been neglected by the screenplay the worst, but he can make up for that thanks to his charisma and integrity. The only thing that's a shame is that there are so little scenes with him and Wu Chien Lien because the way it is the love story oftentimes feels as if put on ice.
Wu, however, gives a great performance as the professional killer as well. Her portrayal is rather subtle most of the time, but we can outright feel the coldness of her heart and her loneliness. Even if it doesn't fully click between her and Lau Ching Wan, and it isn't supposed to do so as has to be noted, we still buy that Shek is the one responsible for slowly making her turn more human.

Beyond Hypothermia - Film Screenshot 12

Dark and hostile is the world the director sketches. Only the scenes between the female killer and the noodle shop owner manage to lift the mood to a bearable level. And wouldn't you know it, the killer can't escape her work. When bodyguard Yichin, solidly played by Han Sang-woo, arrives in Hong Kong in order to take revenge on the killer the bloodshed only gets started. In fact, violence isn't sparcely used. All the scenes unfolding are pretty bloody and brutal.
Patrick Leung succeeds in including some very nice shootouts in his film. Doing so he sticks to his very own style and still achieves not to seem inferior to his teacher John Woo. Some zooming in, fast cuts and camera work that ups the suspense level work hand in hand to create the right atmosphere. The action scenes are scattered throughout the film in a well balanced manner and especially the last scene really wins you over. Hard to believe that Leung is nowadays responsible for movies like "Good Times Bed Times" or the terrible "The Twins Effect 2"...

What's nice as well is that the movie gets a slightly international appeal as it takes place in Korea for a while. There could have been done more with that, and in fact we also get the only real slow-down of the movie here, but the chasing scenes in Korea are still nice to look at. The only question remaining is why Korean gangsters are depicted like complete idiots, running into opposing traffic and then wonder why they are run over one after the other...

Beyond Hypothermia - Film Screenshot 13

"Beyond Hypothermia" surely isn't perfect. Because for a typical heroic bloodshed movie the pacing is too slow here and there are too few shootouts. However, in my opinion that's just what makes this film so special. The focus lies more on the inner life of the killer and her relationship with Shek. The drama resulting from this works out surprisingly well in a subtle way. Of course, it is unimaginable from the very beginning that there can be a real happy ending and so the ending can truely be touching. Even though there might not be a lot of emotions shown, "Beyond Hypothermia" still manages to trigger them in the viewer.
A few cool and stylish shootouts as well as an extraordinarily well composed soundtrack also put the finishing touch on the end product.

If you don't have something against a Hong Kong action flick with a modestly quiet tone you are at the right address. Great, gritty emotional cinema the kind of only the former British crown colony is able to deliver and very good shootouts grant this movie a definite recommendation.
"Beyond Hypothermia" has completely surprised me in a positive way and showed me once again what genre my heart belongs to. For this alone the movie gets a purely subjective extra point. Either way, for everyone else the bottom line is still: Watch it!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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