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Original Title:
Bou ying

Hong Kong 2011

Thriller, Drama

Law Wing Cheong

Anthony Wong
Richie Ren
Janice Man
Maggie Cheung Ho Yee
Candy Lo
Lei Lam
Charlie Cho
Elena Kong
Wong Yat Yat

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Story: The tycoon Wong (Anthony Wong) has some issues with his drug addicted daughter Daisy (Janice Man) for a while already. Since her mother died and he married again she is constantly rebelling against him and his new wife (Maggie Cheung Ho Yee) whom she can't stand. When Daisy is suddenly kidnapped Wong is sure at first that this is yet another attempt of his daughter to get some money from him. He pays the ransom, but isn't dealing too kindly with the abductors on the phone which leads to Wong getting his daughter back dead. The tycoon is devastated and swears to have everyone killed who was involved in the kidnapping. For this job he hires his long-term bodyguard Chor (Richie Ren). The more the bloody trip of vengeance draws to an end the more Wong is plagued by feelings of guilt himself. To find out who were the men behind the abduction and make them pay is only part of the revenge for his daugter's dead, at the same time he also has to learn how to deal with his own feelings about this matter.

Review: "Punished" is a Milkyway flick, produced by Johnnie To, that has its distinct strengths and weaknesses. The strength of the film, besides the great soundtrack by Guy Zerafa and Dave Klotz, is that the revenge thriller puts its focus on the emotions of the involved parties. Anthony Wong can deliver a fine performance and even Richie Ren, who is oftentimes pushed to the background, gets his chance to flesh out his character a bit more. The weaknesses become apparent in the rather mediocre screenplay that lacks any innovation in the genre. Those who hope to see some new aspects added to the vengeance theme will be disappointed. "Punished" is no "I Saw the Devil", it is far more unspectacular. This is also shown in the directing of Law Wing Cheong ("Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms") that always remains simply solid, only during a few scenes we get to see that Johnnie To's disciple could achieve a lot more. "Punished" is nonetheless a well done addition to the genre that makes us realize at some points that it could have been more.

There is still a certain frustration left with the viewer for the already stated reasons, but the ending proves to be conciliatory enough to make this forgiveable. Furthermore, it's laudable that there are no real shoot-outs in this thriller but that the focus lies more on the drama instead. That's a different approach of a gritty Hong Kong thriller and that's also what manages to keep the thriller running. That is because the structure of the movie itself is a bit questionable. The numerous flashbacks, the regular jumping back- and forwards in time in order to illuminate the background of the kidnapping destroy the tension of the movie and it's easy to realize that this way an otherwise completely unspectacular story was supposed to be told a bit more interesting. But that doesn't really work out. Which again brings us to the film's weakpoint as the Milkyway scriptwriters are normally known for delivering good stories. However, Chi Keung Fung is known for his more shallow plots like that of "Sparrow" or "Legendary Assassin" and that's also quite apparent here.

At least what the movie lacks in innovation is made up for in the implementation of interpersonal relationships. The screenplay takes its time to bestow some background on the characters and thus makes them look more animated. Anthony Wong is the stern boss who can't be any different towards his daugther. That he actually just wants the best for her is quite apparent for anyone on the outside but his lacking empathy makes his daughter rebel against him and so the battle lines between the two are drawn very soon. Adding to that is also that his daughter doesn't get along with his new wife very well. Most obviously there has never been anything like a father-daughter-talk between them. However, that Wong is only doing little against the drug escapades of his daughter is really questionable. But Wong is also a man who does find only little time to reflect about himself and his mistakes - because of his work. Thus, he is about to repeat the same mistakes when it comes to his son, played by Wong's real son Wong Yat Yat.

Wong is no perfect father, not at all, he is even more like a tyrant and so it's not really easy to sympathize with him. The death of his daughter is extremely sudden and the way he keeps it a secret from everyone else makes it seem likely that he is more aiming at preserving his prestige than to grieve about the death of his daughter. But that's not the case. Gradually Wong's demons catch up with him and the sorrow as well as feelings of guilt trouble him so much that he can't even sleep right. As we are watching how Wong is connstantly dying from the within and therefore get to see more of his inner feelings he also gains more of our sympathy.
Chor, played by Richie Ren ("Breaking News", "Accident"), is at first glance just a professional killer who only recently changed profession to bodyguard. At least we are quite sure that it's not the first time he puts away people. But especially he looks pretty human since he fosters a close relationship with his boss and his boss's daughter. Therefore, the side story around his son actually wouldn't have been necessary and even looks a bit out of place, resp. makes the film look overloaded.

There may be only few action scenes to be seen and the tension is flattened by the flashbacks as already stated but especially towards the end when the emotional impact of the movie is risen the strength of the drama-heavy story comes to the foreground. Apart from the drama there are also some violent scenes, though, e.g. when Chor is working on one of the kidnappers with a sledgehammer. Yes, it's as usually in a Milkyway-film: Even the good guys are bad and we are nonetheless rooting for them. For those who have no moral problem with that "Punished" is just your treat, for everyone else, however, the movie brings up exactly this premise. At what point has vengeance reached its fulfillment, what comes after that and is it possible to forgive? "Punished" could have achieved more with its ingredients but in the end it still manages to touch us a little bit. Milkyway-fans can get their hands on the movie without hesitation. For Law Wing Cheong we can only hope that he somehow overcomes the mediocrity he forced upon himself soon.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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