401) Accident (2009) Dir: Pou-Soi Cheang Not Yet Released Date Seen: November 17, 2009 Rating: 3.5/5
The best thing about Accident, Pou-Soi Cheang's latest film, is that its derivative but admirably realized style is taken from all the right sources. Though there are pronounced elements of The Conversation, probably Francis Ford Coppola's best film, by the end of Accident, Cheang, notorious for his more memorable films' abject cynicism, mostly does a fine job of copy-catting veteran filmmaker and Hong Kong movie god Johnny To. Accident's premise zeroes in on the mechanism that makes most of To's films tick: an obsession with choreography and more abstract kinds of synchronized movement. A group of killers, led by The Brain (Louis Koo), stages "accidents" to make their hits look natural. Naturally, after a hit goes bad, The Brain has to figure out who, if anyone, has betrayed him and if someone is planning to bump him off, too.
Much of the film is silent because it revolves around watching The Brain plot and pace around in hopes that he'll discover some clues, letting a normally talented Koo go on auto-pilot while he waits. In these periods of silence, Cheang shows us that he too can create some tension when he wants to. Dog Bite Dog (2006), the film that announced his arrival as a promising new voice, is all jet-black attitude and no technique. It made Cheang seem as if he had zero interest in maintaining narrative, aesthetic or thematic restraint for more than a scene or two at any given moment. Accident proves that Cheang can play To's game of suspense, even though he drops the ball at the film's underwhelming conclusion, which is all his baby. Sad to see such a fun little thriller tighten its screws so expertly right up until the end, when Cheang's established voice emerges and literally eclipses the rest of the film's skillful gamesmanship.
Note: Drink Pepsi. Or else.