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Original Title:
Shuang Tong

Taiwan 2002

Mystery, Thriller, Horror

Chen Kuo-fu

Tony Leung Ka-Fai
David Morse
Rene Liu
Leon Dai
Wei-Han Huang
Yang Kuei-Mei
Lung Si-Hung
Brett Climo

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Double Vision

Story: Huang Huo-tu (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) is a cop and works for the foreign affairs department. He uncovered a big corruption scandal within the police force and ever since isn't someone who is looked up to by his colleagues. Huo-tu shuts himself away and focuses on his work, neglecting his wife Ching-fang (Rene Liu) and his daughter who hasn't spoken a single word since she was a victim of a tragic hostage taking two years ago. Ching-fang wants a divorce, and moreover work is also running everything but smoothly for Huo-tu.
As Taipei is terrorized by a serial killer, whose victims die of strange hallucination-like visions, caused by a special kind of fungus spores, Taiwan is forced because of a constant growth of political pressure to engage the help of specialist Kevin Richter (David Morse). Richter is an FBI agent specialized in "profiling" serial killers. As his new partner he gets Huo-tu as a helping hand.
Although Richter approaches the case in a very scientifical and analytical way, whereas Huo-tu prefers to believe the murders to be the doings of ghosts and demons, the uneven partners soon get hot on the serial killer's trail. Furthermore, Huo-tu finds out that the killer's motive seems to be a religious one. However, soon the two have to find out that this case is an especially dangerous one...

Review: Until recently "Double Vision" has been Taiwan's most expensive big-budget production, standing out with its international look and cast. Even the genre covered by this film is a rather uncommon one for an Asian movie. "Double Vision" is a mystery-thriller in the style of "Se7en" with a good amount of "X-Files" interspersed. Maybe that's the reason why I found this movie so appealing, which however doesn't mean that it is without any flaws. Yet, there is a thrilling and dark atmosphere, a neat serial-killer story and good actors, all adding to a very enthralling movie. Moreover, you can see the unusually high production value put to good work and so director Chen Kuo-fu succeeds in delivering a damn engaging and entertaining piece of film.

The plot around a serial murder case isn't bad, either. It takes some time until we get to know what's really behind all of this and then it shows that we don't just get a gritty, bloody thriller, but instead are served with Chinese religion, especially Taoism plays a major part, demons enter the stage, supernatural happenings occur, and yet you can watch this movie from a completely logical/analytical point of view. Or from a more supernatural perspective if you like.
Richter is the non-believer, who has already seen too much in his life to simply take demons as an answer for all of his questions about the horror in this world. Huo-tu on the other hand is convinced that there is a true core in all Chinese myths. Which side you choose is up to you. Thanks to a plot that resolves around a spore-like hallucinogen, you can explain almost everything that happens on screen as being purely delusional and imagined, as a result of the effects of a drug-like substance. But you don't have to.
The movie delivers some pretty nice twists, some of them being even shocking, yet somehow the finale feels a bit too stretched for its own good. For those who somewhere along the way loose track of what's going on, it might be helpful to remember the spores! That is because the movie really likes to blur the line between reality and imagination.

America also did its part in the making of the movie, mainly involving the money, of course. However, David Morse is really an enrichment for the film. His character is very likeable, honest and despite everything he experienced during his life and work he still retained his own special kind of dry humor. At the cost of the language barrier, as Richter can only talk English with Huo-tu, there are some nice jokes, too, so that the culture shock aspect gets a good deal, also. Morse delivers a fine performance, letting him steal his colleagues' show on more than one occasion. It's just unfortunate that we only get to know little about his background, as he is a really interesting guy we really would have liked to learn more about.
Tony Leung Ka-fai ("Election") plays the run-down cop, who has isolated himself from his family, although he still loves his wife and child. His background story concerning the hostage incident involving his daughter is very well brought into play, and especially the scenes with his wife, who is also very well portrayed by Rene Liu ("A World without Thieves"), are very intense, even though they might be a little bit rare.
Particularly well done is the chemistry between Huo-tu and Richter. It might take its full effect on the viewer only late in the movie, getting its climax in a conversation about demons and science, but it is nonetheless one of the film's strengths.

Because of the movie's nature it doesn't come as a surprise that we get to see some scenes during the investigation that aren't really for the faint-hearted. However, the incredibly gory brutality of the film that some critics pointed towards can't really be found. If it weren't for one certain scene in the movie, that is. In this sequence in which a police squad is storming the hideout of a cult, a sudden massacre takes place out of the blue. Blood gushes out of bodies, body parts are chopped of with surgical precision by incredibly sharp shortswords, bullets tear up corpses and a bloodbath unfolds that will lie heavy in your stomach for hours. This sequence kicks in just absolutely unexpectedly and stands out with its shocking realism, which is even intensified by the surprisingly professional-looking CGI-effects.

Chen Kuo-fu gives his work the special feel by laying a sheet of blue colors over his pictures, which makes his world look very gritty and cold. Technically, the movie is top and seems to be done with very much ambition. The story is good, too, with a little bit of religion and supernatural ingredients interspersed, whereas latter might be brought into the picture a bit too late and sudden. The little dramatic sidestory revolving around Huo-tu and his family is nothing special, yet fits into the movie and is quite believable thanks to the actors' efforts.

At times "Double Vision" seems to lose its focus, the pacing drags a bit every now and then, but it never becomes a nuisance. More than anything else it is the relationship between the two main actors that is really engaging and keeps the viewer interested. Thrilling and well-told, the movie is uncompromising and delivers some nice twists. This is everything you can ask for, if it's a serial-killer-thriller you are looking for with a good amount of supernatural elements thrown in. Unfortunately, the film is almost too ambitious for its own good at times, which leads to several elements that won't really fit into a perfect overall-picture. Nevertheless, this doesn't matter, as there is still a well-done gritty horror-thriller left in the end, that will surely find its fans.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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