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Taiwan 2006

Mystery, Horror, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Drama

Su Chao-Bin

Chang Chen
Yosuke Eguchi
Karena Lam
Chang Chun-Ning
Cheng Bo-lin
Barbie Hsu
Kevin S. Smith

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Story: Hashimoto (Yosuke Eguchi) and his team finally succeeded in creating a so-called "Menger Sponge". This very special cube derived from abstract mathematics opens up new possibilities. With the energy of a Menger Sponge it is possible to annul gravity or to see things that aren't within the scope of what human eyes can see.
Hashimoto even manages to capture the spirit of a little child within the Menger Sponge. But why doesn't the boy dissolve after a certain amount of time like all the ghosts before? Where does the spirit take the energy from to stay on this plane? Hashimoto is very interested in getting more information, and even though the pressure exerted by his Japanese investors increases more and more, he hires the cop and sniper Tung (Chang Chen). Tung is blessed with an extraordinary vision and can even read lips.
At first, Tung rejects the assignment, as there are some personal problems he has to take care of, but eventually, he accepts the job and hence is following the boy's ghost wherever it goes. He finds out a lot about the boy's past, yet also has to experience that the spirit can weave silk threads to the living through which he can affect humans in a physical way. Tung's assignment becomes more and more dangerous, and as time goes by he also starts to question Hashimoto's motives...

Review: "Silk" is a horror-mystery-thriller that takes up the old Asian ghost tale, weaves a pseudo-scientific story around it, inserts some tragic "heroes" and in the end just wants to entertain with this genre-mix. At every point in time aiming at an international audience, director Su Chao-Bin may be successful as for this matter, but his script is flawed and the characters prove to be too shallow. Although "Silk" received many good reviews, I have to admit that I have been rather disappointed by Su's work, who also wrote the script to the well-made "Doube Vision". His first horror-thriller has too many flaws and in some respects even looks rather amateurishly produced.

However, if there is something to give the moviemakers credit for, it's the atmosphere of the film. The dark and mysterious mood, as well as the polished pictures will take you into a world, in which ghosts are scientifically legitimated and in which a Menger Sponge opens a door into a completely new world.
By the way, there really is something like a Menger Sponge, but you should be into mathematics at least a bit in order to understand what it's all about. The internet fortunately provides enough information about this stuff, so you might want to make use of the search engine of your choice for more details.
The whole concept of trying to explain everything in a scientific way, sadly becomes pretty inconclusive and at times even ridiculous. Later on, when the events demand more and more answers, the movie has the tendency to leave them out completely. Which just makes the story the biggest sore point of "Silk".

It doesn't stop there, instead the list of deficits goes on. Let's talk about the characters. Chang Chen who should be well-known to Asian cinema fans through his roles in various art-house movies, or maybe just through his role in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", provides an incrediby disappointing performance. His character acts as cool as a fridge, but not in a positive sense. He is rather emotionless, shoots at policemen, hurts innocent civilians and even doesn't care about it. His more sentimental moments stand in strong contrast to these scenes and thus feel too contrived and forced, which is also the case with his love story with Wei, played by Karena Lam. Even though Karena's role is just a small one, she is the only one who seems human. Somehow there just isn't any sympathizing for any of the other characters. Yosuke Eguchi plays an interesting individual, but in the end he just isn't exactly one of the good guys either.
It's strange, but you feel a bit lost in "Silk" as it lacks a strong lead we can relate to. As a matter of fact, Tung should have been that one, but for this he is just too unscrupulous and one-dimensional. The story revolving around his mother is supposed to make him more accessable, but in the end this side story feels just contrived, too.

The biggest problem of "Silk", however, is that director Su wanted too much at the same time. At its core, we have a horror movie that lacks any real shocking moments. We may see ghosts most of the time and there are even several people dying, but we never feel scared or have to wince at least once. Therefore, it is more appropriate to call this film a mystery/sci-fi mix. Nevertheless, there are also some (unwillingly?) funny scenes, e.g. when a ghost rises from a soup-bowl and thereafter have to take notice of the incredibly stupid line of the shop owner who finds a customer on the floor who apparently died of a heart attack and was frightened to death. What were the film-makers thinking here?
The already mentioned love story, the tragic side story and some random action sequences just don't make up a whole. The story surely would have needed some more fine-tuning.

For these faux pas the movie makes up with a good pacing, a nice cinematography by Arthur Wong and a fitting soundtrack by Peter Kam ("Isabella", "Perhaps Love"). In general, everything looks very well-produced and you can't deny that the film knows how to entertain its audience. Nonetheless, I also can't leave out some comments about the special effects. Some of them look really nice, others only decent and at least concerning onr scene (namely the one in which Tung's car is overturning) they look pretty cheap. As if the money ran out towards the end... But if that were the case why even bother to implement such special effects? Why risking to ruin the movie with such cheap effects?!
Storywise the movie loses focus on more than one occasion. At least towards the end the film succeeds in building up some momentum and being engaging. Even the actors can show a little bit more at that point. But it's just too late to really matter. All in all one really would have wished for a little bit more substance.

"Silk" is decent mystery-thriller stuff, even if the ridiculous attempts to scientifically justify what's going on on screen, as well as the rather dreary and uncreative portrayel of the ghosts, may put some viewers off. Strangely, concerning certain aspects of the story where you would have expected it the least, the film proves to have more heart than what you might have thought. Still, at the bottom line it all feels a bit mixed up and pieced together. Personally, I think of "Silk" as a big disappointment, even if this doesn't mean that it is necessarily a bad movie.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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