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Original Title:
San cha kou

Hong Kong 2005

Thriller, Action

Benny Chan

Aaron Kwok
Daniel Wu
Ekin Cheng
Angelica Lee
Gallen Law
Eric Tsang
Jing Ning
Courtney Wu

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Story: Cop Suen (Aaron Kwok) escorts a witness from Canada to Hong Kong. This witness is supposed to give a testimony against businessman Yui (Gallen Law), who is out on trial because of money laundering. However, the witness gets shot by the hitman Coke (Daniel Wu). While Suen tries to find the ones responsible for it, it's becoming an easy case for Yui's lawyer To (Ekin Cheng). Because of the only witness' death, there is no doubt, that Yui will be acquited of charge.
In his investigation Suen also runs into To, but much more interesting than this quiet, balanced lawyer is To's wife (Angelica Lee). She looks exactly like Suen's former girlfriend, who just vanished without a trace 10 years ago, and whose disappearance made Suen a nervous wreck.
Yet, not only To, but also Coke seems to be linked to Suens girlfriend in some way. Coke suddenly starts to play a deadly game with Suen. It appears to be not that easy for Suen to solve this chaotic mess of a puzzle and to stay alive at the same time...

Review: Benny Chan is one of the most successful commercial directors of Hong Kong. And rightly so. With his "New Police Story" he succeeded in making an excellent sequel of the cop-series. His latest movie is "Divergence" and...
...sadly can't live up to the viewer's expectations. In fact, all the requirements for a good movie seem to be met. The cinematography is very nice, the atmosphere is tense and the story tricky and full of twists. Chan just fails to create some real protagonists. They all look artificial, or rather as if they are only a part of the story and nothing more. It's also just to often that the movie looses its focus. There are several sidestorys told at the same time, and we have to wait until the end for them to be connected with each other to create a whole. Unfortunately, even this isn't done in a satisfying manner.

The audience sometimes gets the feeling that the characters are waiting for something. Oftentimes, there isn't anything happening on-screen and just when you start to get bored, the story kicks in again and the characters are also carried away by it. That's also the reason why the persons sometimes just seem to be lifeless and without any initiative of their own. Which is sad, because if the characters would have pushed forward the story, the pacing would have been much faster and we also would have been more interested in them.

Which brings us to the actors. Aaron Kwok as cop Suen is mainly crying about his lost girlfriend, often lethargically sitting around or breaking police laws. Kwoks performance is not to be criticized, he actually is giving a fine anti-hero, however, as already mentioned he always keeps being a mere part of the story, and his repetitive grieving scenes soon become tiring and are presented with exaggeration.
Daniel Wu, who is playing the killer Coke, is also just a little chessman in the story. Absolutely not the typical hero, he portrays the bad guy, whose conscience seems to be troubled by something, which sometimes lets him earn the viewer's sympathy.
Those two anti-heroes are the upside of the movie, but unfortunately they aren't used satisfyingly enough.
Then, there is also Ekin Cheng as the always cool, introverted lawyer To. He doesn't give a convincing performance, as his character is just too shallow. Ekin Cheng is just not the right person for the role and you can see that. The time the movie spends with him, Cheng is apathetically standing around or at best speaking some sentences with an inredible monotonic voice.
The same with Angelica Lee. As some others of the supporting cast, she remains colorless, without a real background and seems only to be important for the story.

Along with all this criticism it has to be emphasized, that "Divergence" is technically pretty well done. Benny Chan knows his craft. Some of the action sequences, like the chasing scene with a resulting fight, or the finale in pouring rain, prove that Chan has a sense for the right pacing and an intensive atmosphere.
The clever story is also well done, with lots of intrigues, nice twists and characters whose backgrounds are interlinked with each other and are slowly dissolved at the end. Remains the question why Chan didn't breathe life into the characters, which also could have avoided some of the more lengthy scenes.
The end is also not resolved in a completely satisfying way. Especially, the exaggerated performance of Kwok at this point is annoying. But there are also other emotional scenes that feel overacted or artificial.

At the end there is disappointment. "Divergence" looks like more than it actually is, and easily could have been much better! At least the movie looks good, thanks to Benny Chan, and the story is basically captivating. With some nice action scenes and surprising twists you will be entertained for about 100 minutes, without regretting it later. Nice entertainment, but nothing else.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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