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Death Notice - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Am saat fung bou

Hong Kong 2023

Crime, Thriller

Herman Yau

Julian Cheung
Francis Ng
Louis Koo
Myolie Wu
Simon Yam
Philip Keung
Ray Lui
Charmaine Sheh
Babyjohn Choi

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Death Notice

Death Notice - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Lo Fei (Julian Cheung) lost his wife Man Wan (Myolie Wu) in a bomb attack ten years ago. The killer called himself "Darker" and always sent his victims a notification of their imminent demise. Man Wan was not the real target, the bomb was meant for Lo Fei's colleague, who was also killed in the attack. Lo has never been able to figure out why the two had to die, but it turns out that he gets another chance to finally solve the case. After ten years, Darker suddenly reappears and Lo happens to be nearby when he offs his latest victim. He immediately takes up the chase, but the killer manages to escape. Chief Superintendent Hon Ho (Francis Ng) takes over the case and finds it strange that Lo Fei, of all people, is the witness in the murder. A superior from back in the days then transfers Lo to the unit under Hon Ho. In the meantime, Darker announces through the media that he is taking the law into his own hands and will kill criminals who normally fall through the cracks. This earns him the sympathy of a huge part of the population, while Lo Fei does everything in his power to find his wife's killer. For this purpose, he once again seeks out the homeless man Wong Siu-ping (Louis Koo), who witnessed the explosion ten years ago and has been disfigured ever since. But when Darker then announces his next victim, the case becomes more and more complicated...

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Review: "Death Notice" promises to be a dark thriller, the likes of which we haven't seen from Hong Kong for a long time. High level of suspense also seems to be guaranteed, at least the initial parkour scene over the rooftops of Hong Kong at night is quite impressive. Above all else, though, the story seems quite intricate and promises various twists and revelations. And since the flick is based on a novel (by Zhou Haohui), the story should also have a little depth. However, this is exactly where some serious problems become apparent as the story progresses. While we get a nice whodunit at the beginning, later there are twists and turns everywhere so that we can hardly keep up, but above all, credibility completely fades into the background because of this. There are also numerous characters, but they all turn out to be surprisingly one-dimensional. Even the three that are supposed to be the story's focus. It's especially hard to warm up to the actual hero.

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It starts with the fact that Lo hardly reacts when he is asked something. He always seems far away, and that makes him suspicious even when we're pretty sure he's not the killer after all. One reason for his distant nature is that, even after ten years, he still sees his dead wife. She communicates with him by giving him important information about the people around him. A well-done trick that ensures that somebody can explain everything necessary to the viewer without having Lo himself narrate things. Later on, however, the narrative style doesn't turn out to be that innovative anymore. Instead, towards the end, there is always someone explaining the various events to us - of course by using flashbacks as a visual aid as well. At a certain point, this gets tiresome, because it takes us out of the story's flow and makes it all feel like an epilogue.

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Julian Cheung ("S Storm") works with what he has, and that is mostly to be completely depressed, his focus expressing his desire to finally avenge his wife's death. Since there is always something enigmatic about him, Lo Fei seems more like a cog in the story than a character in his own right. Same goes for the supporting characters. Francis Ng ("A Home with a View") has a few strong moments, but in terms of acting it's Louis Koo ("Chasing the Dragon 2"), of all people, who takes us by surprise as he is allowed to get a little bit more out of his role. Of course, his small supporting character doesn't stay that small, but even though you immediately know that there will be a surprise regarding his role as the homeless man, you don't know which one it is. That's also a decent way to generate suspense.

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In addition to the constantly developing story, Herman Yau's fast-paced direction ("Moscow Mission") makes sure that you never get bored. However, at some point, with all the developments we have to keep up with, you just feel like you are watching from the sidelines. There is no room to predict events or link thinks up yourself. This is sobering, and towards the end, the various explanations that are necessary because of the numerous twists and turns get truely tiresome. If not even frustrating because of the multitude of names that are thrown at you. As promising as the movie may be, the story becomes so unmanageable and artificially complicated that you even feel a little cheated. "Death Notice" could have had an intelligent plot and even thinks it does, but in the end, it just tries too much, so that eventually everything even gets a ridiculous touch.

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"Death Notice" doesn't have many action scenes, but the ones it does have, are really impressive. This is where Herman Yau shows his greatest strength, because even though the thriller is a departure from his typical works, the director still knows what good action feels like. Unfortunately, the characters still remain one-dimensional, and with the last fifteen minutes the movie actually runs things into the wall. Everything seems so needlessly entangled that it would even be too much of a bother to explain all the plot holes. What begins as a promising dark thriller that focuses on the question of who the perpetrator is (and what his true motives are), dwindles into a tangled web in which the hasty ending once again only raises the question of what the story is actually supposed to be about. Sometimes less is more. "Death Notice" can therefore only be recommended to those who are truely eager to watch a dark HK thriller again.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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