×

Nightfall

Gut-wrenching violence, classical music, daddy issues and Lolita complexes are grist for director Roy Chow Hin Yeung's grisly mill in "Nightfall," a Hong Kong thriller with a strong noirish flavor that stops short of lurid, thanks to the seasoned cast's solid perfs.

With:
With: Nick Cheung, Simon Yam, Janice Man, Shawn Dou, Kay Tse, Michael Wong, Candice Yu. (Cantonese, English dialogue)

Gut-wrenching violence, classical music, daddy issues and Lolita complexes are grist for director Roy Chow Hin Yeung’s grisly mill in “Nightfall,” a Hong Kong thriller with a strong noirish flavor that stops short of lurid, thanks to the seasoned cast’s solid perfs. Chow’s slick if unremarkable helming shows visible improvement from his out-of-left-field debut, “Murderer,” though his repeat collaborator, scribe Christine To Chi-long, has swung from that film’s gag-worthy implausibility to its opposite extreme, belaboring a plot that’s perfectly tenable yet predictable every step of the way. Pic should slot easily into Asian genre fests and ancillary.

Echoes of Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy” linger in “Nightfall,” opening with a staggeringly vicious prison fight in which inmate Eugene Wong (Nick Cheung) puts up a brave struggle but is outnumbered and mercilessly beaten. Later, he is released after serving a 20-year sentence, and immediately takes up spying on Zoe Tsui (actress-model Janice Man), a piano student whose father, Han (Michael Wong), is a renowned opera singer.

Popular on Variety

Renting a shack directly across from the Tsuis’ isolated country mansion, Eugene uses bugging devices to discover that Han is a volatile, abusive father. When Han is found murdered in a gruesome manner, inspector George Lam (Simon Yam) identifies Eugene as the prime suspect.

The pic’s Chinese title, “Big Hunt Down,” coupled with the gripping prologue, dangles expectations of the kind of propulsive, hard-boiled actioner in the darkly stylized mold of Dante Lam or Soi Cheang, or a Hong Kong rendition of the “Bourne” series. “Nightfall” turns out to be neither. The first chase scene doesn’t even happen until the 40-minute mark; an impressively maniacal mano-and-mano inside a cable car occurs 70 minutes into the film.

Essentially a drama-driven whodunit, the pic draws interesting parallels between George’s and Eugene’s respective pasts and their astute yet driven personalities, deepening the detective’s increasingly ambivalent role as the ex-con’s hunter and defender. However, the exposition lags, overstaying its welcome with a cumbersome crime-scene re-enactment accompanied by a long spiel that dryly clarifies every point.

Cheung’s role capitalizes on the thesp’s popular, paradoxical screen image as a psycho with heart, most memorably in “The Beast Stalker.” The fact that Eugene has a speech impediment and is a lone wolf and peeping Tom reps a formidable challenge for Cheung. Deprived of dialogue and the chance to interact with most of the other thesps, he nonetheless brings emotional heft to his bursts of violence.

Yam provides a subtly intense dramatic anchor as the story’s moral center. His scenes with Cheung are little more than staring contests, but they simmer with tension, while George’s partnership with junior detective Ying (singer Kay Tse) generates some playful and romantic vibes that could have been further developed to enrich the main story.

In brief flashbacks as the 19-year-old Eugene, Shawn Dou (“Under the Hawthorn Tree”) manages to channel the 40-year-old protag’s angst-filled expressions and body language despite the lack of physical resemblance. With her porcelain doll features and fragile, frightened look, Man fits her role and contributes to the disturbing prurience of Zoe’s exchanges with her father; however, the actress doesn’t have enough screen presence to carry the film as its chief catalyst and female protag.

Ardy Lam’s fluid lensing delivers crisp images of pristine natural scenery (something of a rarity for Hong Kong-set pics) and glittering neon-lit panoramas of the city by night; however, a consistent visual tone is absent, due to the jarring alternation between heavily saturated and garishly desaturated color textures in interior scenes. Sound is exceptionally clean and resonant, while composer Shigeru Umebayashi (“Trishna,” “In the Mood for Love,”) seamlessly shifts among edgy cello music, plaintive piano notes and sweeping orchestral melodies, repping the pic’s biggest treat.

Nightfall

Hong Kong

Production: An Irresistible Films, Edko Films, Sil-Metropole Organization, Film Development Fund of Hong Kong presentation of an Edko Films production. (International sales: Edko Films, Hong Kong.) Produced by Bill Kong, Ivy Ho. Executive producers Bill Kong, Song Dai, Ryuhei Chiba, Hugh Simon. Co-producer, Fan Kim Hung. Co-executive producers, Ren Yue, Cheung Hong-tat. Directed by Roy Chow Hin Yeung. Screenplay, Christine To Chi-long.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD-to-35mm), Ardy Lam; editor, Cheung Ka-fai; music, Shigeru Umebayashi; art director, Wong Bing-yiu; costume designer, Phoebe Wong; sound (Dolby Digital) Kinson Tsang; visual effects supervisor, Leung Wai On; action choreographer, Jack Wong Wai-leung. Reviewed at Palace IFC , Hong Kong, March 11, 2012. (In Hong Kong Filmart.) Running time: 107 MIN.

Cast: With: Nick Cheung, Simon Yam, Janice Man, Shawn Dou, Kay Tse, Michael Wong, Candice Yu. (Cantonese, English dialogue)

More Scene

  • Jamie Foxx - Excellence in the

    Jamie Foxx Honored by Leonardo DiCaprio at American Black Film Festival Honors

    Leonardo DiCaprio and Morgan Freeman made surprise appearances at the American Black Film Festival Honors ceremony on Sunday night. The “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” actor presented Jamie Foxx with the excellence in the arts award while Freeman announced the movie of the year, which went to “Just Mercy.” Hosted by comedian Deon Cole, [...]

  • Logan Lerman Jordan Peele Al Pacino

    Al Pacino and Carol Kane Had a ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ Reunion on the ‘Hunters’ Set

    Nearly 45 years after Al Pacino and Carol Kane appeared in Sidney Lumet’s classic film “Dog Day Afternoon,” an Amazon Prime Video series about Nazi-hunters in 1977 New York City has brought them back together. Go figure. “I’m proud to be working with him again,” Kane told Variety at the “Hunters” premiere on Wednesday night [...]

  • Anya Taylor Joy Emma Premiere

    Anya Taylor-Joy on Playing Jane Austen's Clever, Callous Protagonist in 'Emma'

    It was an evening of elegance at the Los Angeles premiere of Focus Features’ “Emma” on Tuesday night. The red carpet was lined with pastel floral arrangements at the DGA Theater, priming visitors to be transported to the ornate pageantry of Georgian-era England, as depicted in this new adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic tale. Anya [...]

  • Tom Holland Chris Pratt Onward Premiere

    Tom Holland and Chris Pratt Show Off Real-Life Bond at Pixar's 'Onward' Premiere

    Pixar’s new movie “Onward” marks a reunion of sorts for Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. The two actors, who both have ties to Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and most recently teamed in “Avengers: Endgame” as Spider-Man and Star-Lord, play brothers in the animated fantasy adventure. Their friendship has become a highlight of “Onward’s” promotional tour [...]

  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph

    Da’Vine Joy Randolph Praises Hulu's 'High Fidelity' for Telling a Realistic New York Story

    If HBO’s “Girls” characterized a certain type of young, disaffected millennial, fumbling cluelessly around a gentrifying Brooklyn, and if “Sex and the City” used Manhattan as a tantalizing playground for a class of well-connected, glamorous and decidedly 90s-bound women, both shows had one thing in common: they were painfully, inevitably white. “We’re gonna fix that!,” [...]

  • Harrison Ford Call of the Wild

    Why Harrison Ford Wanted to Play John Thornton in ‘The Call of the Wild’

    Joining legends like Charlton Heston and Clarke Gable, who have played the role of John Thornton in “The Call of the Wild,” Harrison Ford now stands next to a CGI-enhanced version of the dog named Buck in the latest adaptation of Jack London’s classic 1903 novel. “I thought the film has a lot to say [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content