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Original Title:
Dai Chui Bo

Hong Kong 2012

Thriller, Crime

Roy Chow Hin-Yeung

Simon Yam
Nick Cheung
Janice Man
Candace Yu
Kay Tse
Michael Wong
Shawn Dou

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Story: Eugene Wang (Nick Cheung) is released from prison after 20 years. He was sentenced because he killed Eva (Janice Man), the daughter of the famous classic music artist Han Tsui (Michael Wong). Now he is free and stalks Zoe (Janice Man), the younger daughter of Han Tsui, who resembles Eva a lot. Suddenly the body of Han Tsui is found and detective Lam (Simon Yam) is taking on the case. Lam is obsessed with reopening old cases since his wife took her own life five years ago which he believes was actually a murder. Soon everything in his new case points towards Wang as the culprit but Lam takes a look at the old case file and discovers some inconsistencies in Eva's murder investigation. The evidence becomes more and more clear, though, and soon Lam and his female partner (Kay Tse) are attacked by Wang. Moreover, Wang still stalks Zoe and sends her several messages. Lam and his team have to capture Wang as soon as possible before another murder happens.

Review: Sadly, you seldomly get to see good Hong Kong thrillers these days anymore. However, "Nightfall" looks just like such a movie. The pictures, the mood, the characters, everything promises great entertainment and just by its looks the thriller even manages to surpass the restrictions it imposes on itself with its screenplay and almost delivers something special, if it weren't for the story which is rehashed through explaining in every little detail later on and this even though a lot of it is already apparent beforehand. Still, "Nightfall" remains exciting until the very end and thus it is even the more of a pity that there wasn't put a bit more effort into the script.

Director Roy Chow has already been responsible for the more or less successful thriller "Murderer". As was the case with that movie Christine To is once again responsible for the screenplay. While in "Murderer" an admittedly pretty radical twist that wasn't really believable for everyone stood as the key moment of the film, To this time put on the brakes and delivers a story that is actually, if you look closely at it, comeing across without any suprises. In its core the story is well done, Wang could either be a pitiable man who was falsely sentenced to do prison time or a psychopathic killer. Both of it is within the realms of possibility, but during the movie the actual background of things becomes all too apparent.

The real problem is that Christine To considers her audience incapable of at least making sense of a tiny bit of the motives on its own. In fact we get one explanation after another, oftentimes in the shape of dialogues that drag on and on, expecting some kind of thrilling twist, but instead the result of all the talk is what an at least somewhat experienced viewer has come up with long before. Towards the end this is even put to the extreme, thanks to flashbacks and the reiteration of plot details that we already believed to be resolved, and therefore an unnecessary gap between the at first emotionally appealing scenes and the audience starts to widen more and more.

What's also pretty strange is the fact that Lam's story is touched upon but eventually is dropped completely. His daughter who is constantly neglected by him because of his work also falls into this category as is the case with his wife whose suicide still leaves some questions unanswered for him. It seems that the film also could have worked with the character Lam in a more profound manner as well as he remains too shallow in the end and can only win over the viewer thanks to Simon Yam ("Exiled", "Sparrow"). Nick Cheung ("The Stool Pigeon") on the other hand was perfectly cast as the villain of the movie, which in the end maybe isn't one. His actions can always be interpreted in two different ways and despite the fact that he plays a mute he has the necessary screen presence.

"Nightfall" is an enthralling thriller, but it also frequently becomes apparent that the thrilling factor gets lost every time it comes to the excessive plot explanation. Furthermore, there is at least one action scene in a cable car that seems unnecessary, yes even is part of a plot hole. But in other respects the screenplay retrospectively proves to be pretty constructed as well. However, there is enough to like about "Nightfall". And by that I don't mean Michael Wong who with his hysterical behavior as an extremely strict stepfather tortures his daughter not just physically but also mentally with his constantly thrown in English lines. For once Wong fits well into the film with his overacting. No, it's actually the dense thriller atmosphere and the actors as well as the soundtrack by Shigeru Umebayashi (and Chopin's "Nocturne") that oftentimes make the film look better than it really is. Nonetheless, for HK-thriller fans "Nightfall" surely is worth a recommendation.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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