Year of release: 1999
Director: Ringo Lam
Producer: Joe Ma
Writers: Joe Ma, Ho Man Leung, Ringo Lam
Cinematography: Ross Clarkson
Editor: Andy Chan
Music: Raymond Wong
Stars: Lau Ching-Wan, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Amy Kwok, Wayne Lai, Hui Siu-Hung, Emily Kwan, Suki Kwan
Rated IIB for violence and language
Movie review index
Initially promoted as a horror film, Ringo Lam's 1999 release Victim also brings in elements of the suspense genre and hard-boiled crime thrillers, creating a picture that is hard to define in concrete terms and may prove too confusing for some viewers, but is still compelling to watch, especially with solid performances delivered by Lau Ching-Wan and Tony Leung Ka-Fai.
"Big Tony" plays Kwan, a police detective who is investigating the kidnapping of a computer programmer named Manson (Lau Ching-Wan), who is found inside of a mysterious (and perhaps haunted) house. After his release, Manson's behavior changes radically, turning to drinking heavily after years of sobriety, becoming aggressive towards his wife Fu (Amy Kwok), and obsessing at all hours with a hole in his garden. At first, Kwan thinks this is Manson's way of leading the cops from the scent of finding the true reason for his kidnapping, but soon starts to think that perhaps the evil spirits in the house where he was kept have possessed Manson -- or have they?
That question forms the central conflict of Victim and is the cause for the film's many changes in style and tone. At parts, this is a cat-and-mouse chase thriller, while in others, it's a spooky ghost story. Ringo Lam seems to delight here in playing with the audience, never letting them know what exactly is going on or what they might see next. The results do come off as a bit uneven, but it's a real joy to see an accomplished director like Lam at the top of his game here, manipulating the audience's perception seemingly at will. A lot of movies try to sell themselves as roller coaster rides, but Victim is one of the few releases that delivers on that description.
While Ringo Lam's cinematic roadmap -- if he did indeed try to follow one while making this film -- does veer into the ditch at points (most notably due to an ending that introduces too many twists for its' own good) overall Victim ends up being something pretty special, a truly unique experience instead of just another Hong Kong ghost movie where the actors yet again see dead people. If you're in the mood to put something a bit different into your Hong Kong movie diet, Victim should hit the spot.