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Original Title:
Cheut ai kup gei

Hong Kong 2007

Drama, Comedy

Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung

Simon Yam
Annie Liu
Nick Cheung
Irene Wan
Maggie Siu
Yu On-on
Sin Lap-Man
GC Goo-Bi
Chim Sui-man
Lam Ka Tung

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Story: Tsim (Simon Yam) works as a police officer. He steers his life directly into a midlife crisis. His wife Ann (Annie Liu) may be beautiful and also seems to love him, but somehow he avoids her more often than normal. This is because Tsim's life seems to lack something. He seems to be searching for something, without knowing what this something actually is. However, everything changes when one day he has to interrogate Kwan (Nick Cheung), who has been catched filming a group of women on the toilet. What Tsim gets to hear from Kwan is absolutely absurd and ridiculous. Kwan claims that the women of this planet have united to kill off all men. A gigantic conspiracy plot spans this planet. Kwan simply tried to collect some evidence to appear before the public with some proof one day.
Naturally, Tsim doesn't believe one single word, but soon after that something odd happens. His written report suddenly goes missing and he has to interrogate Kwan again. This time Kwan rejects his former statement and says that he was merely observing the women because of a sexual urge. Tsim doesn't know what to think of this change of thoughts, and eventually finds out that shortly after the first interrogation, Tsim's superior Fong (Maggie Siu) visited Kwan. Maybe there lies some truth in the orinal story? Tsim is determined to get to the bottom of things...

Review: In my book Edmond Pang is without a doubt one of Hong Kong's best and most genuine directors. Those who didn't think much of "Beyond our Ken", surely were won over by "Isabella". Yet, you can never be sure whether you will like Pang's next work or not. "AV", for example, wasn't really a great film, nonetheless, the director proves one thing over and over again: He won't stick to usual formulas and shoots movies his very own unique way. Therefore, his films are always art in a way. At least they don't aim at pleasing a broad audience. Moreover, he oftentimes tries to build in a message or motifs to think about in his genuine movies. Preferably in a very ironic way and with a good portion of black humor. Unfortunately, this also means that his films are more or less hit-or-miss phenoms. Either you love them, or it's simply not your cup of tea. Sadly, "Exodus" falls into latter category for me.

The main plot of Pang's movie revolves around a conspiracy which sounds so ridiculous, that it would actually be a stroke of genius if it would turn out to be true. Behind every murder of a male person there is a woman responsible for it. In most cases they poison their husbands with a color- and scentless toxin, which can't be discovered in an obduction. You get to hic-up for hundred times and after this you die - that's the only foreboding of man's approaching death. What can you possibly think of such a story? Not much, that's for sure. Thus, the initial interrogation scene is oozing out black humor. And when Kwan eventually revokes his statement, we don't understand a thing anymore. Maybe something about this story is true? The viewer never knows which way the director is steering his ship to. Maybe Kwan is crazy. Plain and simple. And Tsim falls under his influence. Nonetheless, fact is, that cop Tsim has finally found something that gives his life meaning. Which is finding an answer to the question if there actually is such a conspiracy or not.

The road Tsim takes for finding answers clearly shows that he isn't a good policeman. He goes to crime scenes, unintentionally chases away suspects and never approaches his investigation with an adequate portion of discretion. You should expect otherwise from a guy who tries to expose a worldspanning conspiracy.
Nevertheless, life starts to get interesting for Tsim again. Yet, he manveuvers himself right into a world of trouble with his mindless actions. He slowly starts to build up more and more distance between himself and his wife, and also presents himself to potential enemies on a silver plate. But things get from bad to worse when his search for truth, which has already become an obsession, maneuvers him right into an affair that could ruin his life. Here, Pang's typical approach of his movie themes comes into play. He explores his topics with a lot of irony, yet always remains neutral and refuses to give the viewer an answer to the many questions he has. Maybe after all Tsim is a man who really deserves to be erased from this world by the hand women?

Those who crave for an answer, or maybe even hope that the movie works towards a message, will truely get disappointed. The ending comes in a very unceremonious and unspectacular way, but with a nice wink. But that's not really enough to get hooked up with the film, as the movie lacks the necessary level of suspense for winning over and keeping the viewer's interest. To be exactly, there obviously doesn't happen much in "Exodus". There also isn't much dialogue. Instead the director focuses on depicting feelings and emotions through small gestures on screen. But here, too, there is only little movement. Oftentimes the movie stagnates and offers us everlasting shots of the characters, whom we are supposed to understand all the way to their mindsets. Actually, these scenes simply become tedious with time and also seem a bit self-impressed. Without a doubt, Simon Yam ("Election", "Triangle") is a great actor and for most part he rescues his character from being a blank sheet, but despite his efforts of giving his character a good portion of charisma, this isn't enough for the audience to be able to sympathize with him. And if we can't sympathize with him, with whom are we supposed to do so?

I also have to emphasize the great performance of Nick Cheung as a foul-mouthed and crazy conspiracy theorist. Concerning technical aspects "Exodus" can also score. Charlie Lam, as in former works of Pang, is once again responsible for the cinematography and really does achieve a lot. Moreover, Gabriele Roberto adds a nice soundtrack to the film. Especially, in the opening scene, these two positive aspects show to advantage, so that our expectations are actually quite high. But then, the film's pacing drops and becomes snaillike. The movie never achieves that much we expect from it.
"Exodus" is extraordinarily unique in many respects, but one thing is also for sure: This is Pang's most experimental and audience-unfriendly film to date. I really have to take my hat off to this director, who really goes all the way and shoots a movie without making any compromise. Sadly, this kind of wacky Art-House cinema couldn't win me over in any way. Only the black humor proved to be a nice element, that could bestow that certain it-factor to the film. Nevertheless, I really can't recommend this movie. Many critics see it differently than me, but that's just how it is with Pang's works: Either they touch you in a very unique way - or you simply don't care about them...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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