An amazing amount of talent is wasted on psychothriller “Murderer,” whose chief culprits are first-time director Roy Chow (previously an assistant to Ang Lee) and scripter Christine To (“Fearless,” “Secret”). After an impressively edgy start and an audience-teasing midsection, the pic sinks at the 80-minute mark with a twist that’s outrageous even by genre standards and direction that abandons its previously atmospheric style. Despite poor reviews, the pic did surprisingly well in Hong Kong on its July release, though beyond Asian markets it has only a minor cult career on ancillary to look forward to.
Shot in saturated, slightly lurid colors by ace lenser Mark Lee and moodily scored by Japanese vet Shigeru Umebayashi (“2046”), the pic starts like gangbusters with the sudden bone-crunching fall of Hong Kong cop Tai (vet Chen Kuan-tai) while hunting a serial killer who drains blood from his victims with a power drill. Tai’s partner, Inspector Ling (Aaron Kwok), is found at the scene with temporary memory loss.
All the clues progressively point toward Ling being implicated, and his only defender is his buddy, “Ghost” (Cheng Siu-fai), who’s handed the case while Ling rests. To add to his problems, Ling has three days in his diary he can’t account for, and even his wife (Taiwan’s Janine Chang, speaking Mandarin throughout) and adopted young son (Tam Chun-yat) can’t remember what he did.
As Ling tries to prove his innocence — between ghoulish memory flashes — the evidence against him mounts on all fronts. Even Ghost discovers that all three of the serial killer’s victims were childhood neighbors of Ling.
The big reveal is not only laughably out there but also is explained by the murderer in a speech that’s so long it actually becomes boring — and there’s still a half-hour to go.
Kwok, who’s taking much more “serious” roles nowadays, overdoes the intensity of his confused character to diminishing effect. Other thesps punch the clock, including Josie Ho, who’s spliced in as Ling’s sister for no apparent reason.