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Original Title:
Gun chung

Hong Kong 2007

Crime, Thriller

Yau Nai-Hoi

Simon Yam
Tony Leung Ka-fai
Kate Tsui
Lam Suet
Maggie Siu
Cheung Siu-Fai
Samuel Pang
Tse Suet-sum
Berg Ng
Lai Yiu-Cheung
Sunny Wong

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Eye in the Sky

Story: The SU (Surveillance Unit) of the police force gets a new member in form of the young girl Piggy (Kate Tsui). Even though Piggy might be a little bit inexperienced in the field, she shows that she has potential, which is why Dog-Head (Simon Yam) takes her under his wings. On their surveillance missions he teaches her what it means to tail someone. The most important thing in this job is to never blow your cover. Sometimes this may demand from you to watch somebody getting beaten up, without being able to help him. Piggy doesn't like this aspect of her work, but she is acting according to Dog-Head's directive as she knows that it might save her life someday. As a matter of fact, the game she is no a part of is a dangerous one indeed, as she soon has to find out.
The newest mission of the SU is by far their toughest one, yet, and revolves around the clever head of a gang of robbers, Shan (Tony Leung Ka-fai), whom their are supposed to shadow. Shan also knows a thing or two about tailing and observation. He is also very skilled in keeping an overview of what's happening around him. Therefore, a deadly game between Shan and the police force begins.

Review: "Eye in the Sky" is a simple, yet effective Hong Kong Thriller made by Milkyway prodctions, which can score with a nice plot idea. The movie's theme without a doubt may seem to be "Big Brother is watching you", but apart from a few surveillance camera shots the film doesn't drown in unnecessary directing tricks, but focuses on the everyday life of police's special force, which is expert in observing potential gangsters. Surprisingly, the picture drawn of this special squad's everyday life is a thrilling and gripping one. This is even the more impressive as the movie really only focuses on their work and doesn't serve us with any well-developed characters. Yau Nai-Hoi, who worked with Johnnie To several times and is also responsible for the script of many of his movies, delivers a surprisingly good police thriller, that even let's us forgive some of its serious flaws.

"Eye in the Sky" seems to achieve what Johnnie To's overstyled "PTU" wanted to be. A gripping thriller, that sheds some light on the everyday life of a special unit and also doesn't refrain from bestowing a certain amount of style on the movie. What's making this film work out so well in the end, is the great pacing. Even the opening, where we are introduced to several characters, whereas we still don't know who's important for the film and who's not, while we also have no clue who is actually tailing who, is full of the same dynamic pacing of the moving pictures, that makes this movie score the whole way through. Fast editing and energetic camera movements between the individual characters make us sit on the edge of our chair, as we never really know when somebody might make a mistake that could prove to be fatal. It's of vital importance to preserve your cover, and even though this might demand incredible patience of the protagonists, it's unusually enthralling and gripping for the audience. The pictures are just right and saturated with this nice HK-Cop-thriller magic that cannot be described with words. This is a cat-and-mouse game, which somehow reminds us of the meeting between the triads and the Thais in "Infernal Affairs" when the police had its eyes and ears everywhere and the tension was physically tangible. With the little difference that there is no meanwhile hackneyed element of an undercover agent involved in "Eye in the Sky".

The film is moving on a high level of tension and thrill, which is even the more striking as there is actually not much happening at all. Often, we merely accompany the policemen on their work. Fortunately, director Yau learned enough from Johnnie To to easily work in a certain kind of basic tension into his film. Many cuts make even the smallest of routines of the policemen seem interesting and of importance, and also ensure a very dynamic pacing. Thus, the movie never runs the risk to become dull, even if from the second half on we get the feeling that the case revolving around Shan also is just a routine job, and that we won't get to see anything outstanding here.
Luckily, there is a small twist thrown into the movie and we have to realize that Shan also knows quite a lot of the work of a SU-member. The one who proves to have the best mental capacity, a keen mind and an extraordinary memory, will win this enthralling game. Shan leaves no doubt that he is a smart and worthy opponent, who eventually becomes a real danger to the special unit.

Adding to the tense atmosphere is a nice soundtrack by Guy Zerafa. When are his great soundtracks finally getting a release? But back to topic: Director Yau also bestows a slightly sarcastic note upon the voyeuristic aspect of his film. A very nice scene is the one in which Shan clashes with one of his subordinates, leading to a violent argument, until the ones involved, one after another take notice of a woman across the street, who is undressing herself in front of the window. This is a refreshing way of realising tension from such a hostile situation.
The movie is carried by the great acting efforts of veterans Simon Yam and Tony Leung Ka-fai. Yam convinces as the aged mentor, who is almost depicting something like a father figure for Piggy. His performance is very charismatic, even though his artificial belly is rather superfluous. Sure, he may have gotten a bit fat for this role, but obviously part of his tummy is fake.
Yam's opponent is portrayed by Tony Leung with great coolness and a certain kind of inscrutableness. Besides some of the obligatory Milkyway faces, we also have Kate Tsui in this picture. Being a former Miss Hong Kong and TVB star she naturally looks a bit shallow in her first movie when compared to Yam and Leung, but hey, who wouldn't? Still, actually, she shows some talent and can convey her emotions especially well. She may have got what it takes to be more than just the cute supporting actress. Interestingly enough, the film even grants her a lot of space towards the end, so that later on she actually stands in the movie's focus.

Of course, "Eye in the Sky" is full of coincidences, that sometimes seem a bit contrived. However, as it is often the case in HK-movies karma is playing a big role in this thriller, too. Everyone gets what he deserves in the end, and this even rather unceremoniously at times. This also means that the film heads for a less nihilistic ending than what we are used to see, mainly because of the nature of the characters the thriller portrays. That's different from the usual stuff and a welcome change. Still, it seems somewhat wrong that Shan and Dog-Head make such grave errors later on, the way the movie wants to sell them to us. For this, the two were just too smart before.
Apart from some flaws and conincidences when it comes to the script, "Eye in the Sky" actually proves to be a well-done thriller, that underlines once again, that HK-cinema still isn't dead.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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