Fri, Apr 16, 2010 - Page 13 News List

FILM REVIEW : If looks could thrill

Cho Li’s mystery thriller has blockbuster potential but loses its suspense early on

By Ho Yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

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Billed as the first Taiwanese movie to venture into thriller territory in years, Zoom Hunting (獵豔), producer Cho Li’s (卓立) directing debut, looks like a promising commercial flick with its theme of voyeurism, explicit sex scenes and a star-studded cast that includes pop idols Ning Chang (張鈞甯) and Wen Sheng-hao (溫昇豪) and famous actors Chin Shih-chieh (金士傑) and Jack Kao (高捷). But an unimaginative story line and drab performances by the lead roles ruin the surprise.

The film begins with fashion magazine photographer Ruyi (Chang) taking snapshots from her balcony and inadvertently capturing a couple (Wen and Chou Heng-yin, 周姮吟) having sex. When she realizes the couple are adulterers, Ruyi can’t resist the urge to stalk them with her camera and share the discoveries with her novelist sister Ruxing (Chu Chih-ying, 朱芷瑩).

One night, the voyeur hears a loud argument from the couple’s room across the street and sees a man being knocked down by a woman. She calls the police, but nothing unusual is found.

Convinced that something did happen, Ruyi enlarges her photographs and discovers that her sister had been in the room earlier. Meanwhile, Ruxing overcomes her writer’s block and finishes an erotic thriller that involves the murder of a married man by his paramour.

Puzzled, Ruyi starts investigating and eventually confronts her sister about what really happened that night.

Zoom Hunting opens with an auspicious premise effectively delivered through fluid cinematography by Hong Kong’s Kwan Pun-leung (關本良), whose credits include Wong Kar-wai’s (王家衛) In the Mood for Love (花樣年華) and Ann Hui’s (�?�) July Rhapsody (男人四十). In the beginning of the film, Kwan’s aerial cinematography hovers over Ruyi’s apartment building and swoops down to close in on other characters whose identities will soon be revealed.

FILM NOTES

ZOOM HUNTING 獵豔

DIRECTED BY: CHO LI (卓立)

STARRING: NING CHANG (張鈞甯) AS RUYI, CHU CHIH-YING (朱芷瑩)

AS RUXING, WEN SHENG-HAO (溫昇豪) AS THE MARRIED MAN,

CHOU HENG-YIN (周姮吟) AS THE MARRIED WOMAN

RUNNING TIME: 95 MINUTES

TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY


Thus director Cho takes merely a few minutes to pin down the setting and main characters — a group of ordinary people living in an ordinary neighborhood. That the mystery thriller unfolds through breakfast eateries, a neighborhood park, narrow alleys and other sights familiar to Taipei residents only adds to the allure.

But as the film proceeds, tension and suspense are gradually worn out by the director’s plain narrative skills and dull verbal explanations by the characters. This dramatic device works well on stage but seems abruptly out of place for the intended mood and pace of this film.

The wooden acting of Chang and Chu as the two sisters doesn’t help either. It is theater actress Chou’s natural performance and the explosive cameo of Michelle Krusiec as the cheating man’s wife that deliver much-needed flare.

Zoom Hunting makes a decent stab at exploring a rarely touched upon genre, but the suspense dwindles early and drains emotion from what should be the pivotal, intensely charged scenes toward the end.

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