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Original Title:
Seung sing

Hong Kong 2006

Thriller, Drama

Andrew Lau
Alan Mak

Takeshi Kaneshiro
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai
Xu Jinglei
Shu Qi
Chapman To
Yueh Hua
Wan Yeung-Ming
Toby Leung Ching-Kei
Chan Bo-Yuen
Lai Yiu-Cheung
Shaun Tam Chun-Yin
Monie Tung Man-Lei

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Confession of Pain

Story: Hei (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) is head of the homicide squad. His friend Bong (Takeshi Kaneshiro), who once was part of his unit, now is making ends meet by working as a private eye. His downfall is due to his alcohol addiction which he has become victim of three years ago, when his girlfruend commited suicide. Hei and Bong still meet after all these years whenever they get the chance, and therefore one day Susan (Xu Jinglei), Hei's wife, approaches Bong with a job. Her father and his butler have been found murdered a few days ago and she believes that someone must have been involved in the murder who knew her father pretty well, because he had been very careful when it came to strangers. Bong agrees to look into it and asks Hei about the details. However, Hei can't help him in the investigation itself because he, too, is a suspect in this case, since a remarkable fortune has fallen into the hands of his wife and himself because of the death of Susan's father.
While there is progress concerning the investigation, Susan more and more also gets the feeling that somebody is watching her, but no one wants to believe her until it is almost too late...

Review: There has been a lot of advertising and hype for "Confession of Pain" after the enormous success of Andrew Lau's and Alan Mak's "Infernal Affairs"-trilogy. The film had yet to hit cinema screens and Hollywood was already reserving the rights for a remake. So there seems to be quite some blockbuster material here, at least that's what one might be lead to believe. But that's not the case. "Confession of Pain" is truely a disappointment and more than anything else maneuvers itself into a dead end, because it forcefully tries to please everybody. In its core a psychological thriller, the two directors also add some humor and action here and there for good measure and present it with a polished look that doesn't really seem appropriate for the dark and dreary story of the movie. Moreover, the film provides us with answers to important key questions way too soon and deprives the story of any momentum it might have had, so that at the end we only are allowed to sit and listen to what we already figured out ourselves.

At first glance, the wrapping seems quite nice, but the pictures are soon blemished by a chaotic narration and a not so convincing editing. "Confession of Pain" without a doubt wants to please an international audience, which also is apparent when it comes to the superfluously pushed pacing. In contrast to that there are some moments were obviously nothing is happening at all, making it almost impossible for the viewer not to start daydreaming. Some inserted action sequences and chasing scenes try to hide what is obvious. "Confession of Pain" tries to create a psychological tension and thrill as in "Infernal Affairs" solely through the story and characters, yet has to realize eventually that the framework isn't given for this to work out. Therefore, the directors only add to the viewers high ecpectation and almost provoke a big disappointment, instead of making clear from the start, that this is a more dark and character-driven film.

As a gritty-nihilistic thriller Lau's and Mak's work might have been a lot more successful. The ever apparent violence, the ambivalent character traits of the individuals and the pain they have to suffer sketch the picture of a drama that doesn't blend into the other surroundings like the jazz-soundtrack and the humor.
Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro are the driving force in the movie and it would had been a good idea to rely on their expertise a litte bit more, instead of bedazzling with visuals. Leung is a cop, who seems to have suffered a deep emotional wound, which leads him into doing things that result into more pain for him. Sadly, Leung's character often seems a bit too cold and remote. We never really know what to think of him, as we actually know that he is nothing of a "glorious cop", and that he has his reasons for that, too, but he still can't gain any sympathies so that in the end we simply don't care about him. Not a good starting point for a character-driven drama...

Takeshi Kaneshiro ("Sweet Rain", "Warlords") on the other hand can provide us with a little bit more. His character may be somewhat archetypical being the alcohol-addicted private eye he is, but the story about his wife, who took her own life, gives him enough material to work with. Why did she commit suicide, which feeling did Bong have for her and what consequences has the pain of loss to him? Those questions make Bong more three-dimensional than Hei.
So at the bottom line "Confession of Pain" is about love and the pain that comes with it, but it's also about revenge and other emotions. But how are you supposed to feel emotionally moved, when the characters can't involve you? Furthermore, to succeed in that the story is presented too bumpy with numerous jumps and logical gaps, as well as revelations, which all are made way before it would had been aiding the story. At the end "Confession of Pain" completely turns its back on gritty Hong Kong cinema, which merely shined through, anyway, and descends to a TV-drama level.

To sum it up one more time: The pictures of the movie look incredibly polished and appealing. The story also seems promising and the actors are also convincing. Only the unhandy realisation of the movie, in which no red thread is running through, as well as the constant jumping from scene to scene, destroy the overall picture and the interest of the viewer. There are moments that make us aware of the fact that we are supposed to sit at the edge of our seat because of the rising tension, but we simply don't care about what's happening. It's similar with the emotional scenes. What can make you hang in there is actually only the beautiful exterior and the hope, that the movie gets its act together somehow at the end. But it doesn't. How badly everything is brought together is also apparent when looking at Shu Qi's character, which has no function for the film whatsoever, and is irritating in the respect that we somewhen start to wonder what Bong likes so much about this perfunctory girl.
In "Confession of Pain" director-duo Lau/Mak are to much in love with their own style and success, so that they seem to believe that they can do a commercial thriller/drama blindfolded. At the end there is only disappointment and the certainty that it could had been much better...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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