Year of release: 2006
Director: Edmond Pang
Producers: Edmond Pang, Chapman To, Jin Zhong-Qiang
Writers: Edmond Pang, Derek Tsang, Jimmy Wan, Pang Sau-Wai
Cinematography: Charlie Lam
Editing: Wenders Li
Music: Peter Kam
Stars: Chapman To, Isabella Leong, Derek Tsang, JJ Jia, Meme Tian, Anthony Wong, Josie Ho, Shawn Yu
Rated IIB for language and sexual situations
Movie Review Index
Isabella is a film based around the idea of incest between a father and daughter. But get your mind out of the gutter, because this isn't some sort of Category III sleazefest. Like with most of his output, director Edmond Pang plays around with the conventions of the genre, making this a picture that definitely steps up and makes its' mark as a piece of cinema, rather than just yet another cheap movie ready made for mass consumption by a non-discriminating audience.
Taking place in Macau, Chapman To plays Ma, a boozy cop who is more interested in lining his own pockets and getting laid rather than solving cases. After one bender, Ma wakes up next to Cheung (Isabella Leung), who reveals that she is actually the daughter of his high school sweetheart. Ma just initially offers Cheung some money to go away, but begins to develop fatherly feelings for her, but may not be able to commit on them, as he is both under investigation for corruption and being pursued by some of the local gangsters.
Edmond Pang made his directorial debut in 2001 with the critically praised black comedy You Shoot I Shoot, and has since established himself as one of Hong Kong's better young directors. Even in an industry known for crossing genre boundaries in its' output, Pang's films seem to delight in taking the audience's expectations and turning them around. Isabella is no exception; it moves around from serious drama to comedy, often at a whim. Yet these switches in tone never seem forced or tacked on, giving the film a naturalistic feel, which is appreciated, since this is the sort of things that could quickly go overboard into the territory of the melodramatic.
Some credit should also go out to the two leads. A product of the Emperor Entertainment Group media juggernaut, Isabella Leong is another in the long line of Hong Kong singers turned actors. Unlike many of her compatriots, she shows some real flair and talent, which sadly has never really been capitalized on since, due to a contract dispute with EEG. As for Chapman To, I have never really thought of him as a bad actor per se, just more of a generic one. Usually regulated to supporting roles or comedic relief, To shows here that he is fully capable of carrying a dramatic film, at least under the direction of the right person, of which Edmond Pang definitely is.