A tricky crime tale on the cusp of horror, balances the grisly and the sentimental without wallowing excessively in either.

Wong Ching-po’s “Revenge: A Love Story” crafts a tricky crime tale on the cusp of horror, balancing the grisly and the sentimental without wallowing excessively in either. Fans of outre Hong Kong action cinema should approve, with healthy home-format prospects and possible remake potential outside Asia.

A killer is targeting Hong Kong police officers and their pregnant wives, murdering the former outright and gutting the latter of their unborn children. When Kit (Juno Mak), whom we’ve already seen committing these acts, is apprehended trying to flee a police roadblock, he’s hauled in for the brutal interrogation apparently typical at this precinct, triggering a lengthy explanatory flashback.

Some time before, Kit had been a humble steamed-bun seller, smitten with occasional customer Wing (Aoi Sola), a beautiful if simpleminded teenage schoolgirl. When her grandmother/caretaker dies of old age, Wing is unable to process this drastic change; she ends up committed to the local sanitorium, from which Kit springs her.

They temporarily shelter in the apartment of a kindly prostitute neighbor. While she and Kit are out, however, a drunken john shows up, assumes Wing is also a “pro,” and is busy assaulting her when Kit arrives to knock him unconscious. The two youths go to the police to report this attack; unfortunately, it turns out the john was one of them, the vile-tempered, inebriated and corrupt Du Ge (Lau Wing).

The violent fallout of this encounter eventually brings us back to the film’s start. Script (which leaps ahead a timespan or two later on) cleverly maintains interest in what might have become a routine”Ten Little Indians”-style series of revenge killings, mixing things up stylistically in a few strikingly violent action setpieces. Though credibility could easily have flagged earlier, pic only goes over the top with a final setpiece involving a church boys’ choir.

While characters are fairly one-dimensional, especially the innocent-to-the-point-of-idiocy girl served up for despoilage, perfs avoid caricature. Tech and design aspects are first-rate.

Revenge: A Love Story

Hong Kong

Production

An ETA production. (International sales: All Rights Entertainment, Hong Kong/Paris.) Produced by Conroy Chan. Executive producer, Andrew Ooi. Director, Wong Ching-po. Screenplay, Wong Ching-po, Jill Leung, from a story by Juno Mak.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Jimmy Wong; editors, Wong Ching-po; Cheung Ka-fai; music, Dan Findlay; art director, Cinnie Fung; costume designer, Wen Choi; sound (Dolby Digital), Chen Chi-kien; sound designer, Benny Chu; re-recording mixer, Stan Yau, Chu; assistant director, Julie Lau. Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival (To the Extreme), June 10, 2011. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Juno Mak, Aoi Sola, Lau Wing, Chiu Siu-ho, Wong Shee-tong, Ho Wah-chiu, LamLing-yuen, Sun Wai-lin, Yu Tat-chi, Leung Tat-keung. (Cantonese dialogue)

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