Film review: Trivisa – Hong Kong criminals at crossroads in 1997-set drama
Exceptional crime drama by three rising directors, and produced by Johnnie To, infers that Hong Kong has lessened in importance since the handover
If Trivisa is any indication of the bigger picture, Hong Kong cinema’s future may be a lot brighter than that of the city itself. Produced by Milkyway Image veterans Johnnie To Kei-fung and Yau Nai-hoi, this exceptional crime drama by three young local directors – Frank Hui Hok-man, Jevons Au Man-kit and Vicky Wong Wai-kit – demonstrates its bold vision by vividly inferring Hong Kong’s drop in standing under Chinese rule.
The film is bookended by news footage from 1997, complete with mentions of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the pledge of 50 years unchanged. Its ostensibly apolitical narrative charts the crisscrossing destinies of three notorious criminals – loosely based on the real-life figures of Yip Kai-foon, Kwai Ping-hung and Cheung Tsz-keung – before fate catches up with themon the eve of the handover.
Lam Ka-tung plays Kwai Chung-hung, a cold-blooded and distrustful robber who looks to stage his latest heist with two Chinese ex-soldiers hired from the mainland. Also navigating the shifting political climate is Yip Kwok-foon (Richie Jen Hsien-chi), a ringleader who gives up robbing banks to smuggle electronic goods across borders just to stay with the competition – only to see his ego take severe hits in front of the corrupt Chinese officials he must bribe.
When the flamboyant kidnapper Cheuk Tsz-keung (Jordan Chan Siu-chun) becomes tired of toying with intimidated tycoons and ineffectual police, he is inspired by an underground rumour – that the trio of felons are spotted meeting in China to discuss a sensational project before the handover – to track down Kwai and Yip and make the meeting happen. The black humour rears its head when Cheuk sets up a public hotline to reward informers.
Ultimately, this is less a noirish thriller than it is a triple portrait of larger-than-life characters, who are all forced to renegotiate their brash and unruly criminal lifestyles in a dramatically changing political landscape. With Trivisa, Hui, Au (also one of the five directors for the Hong Kong Film Awards best picture Ten Years) and Wong couldn’t have made a stronger start to their fledgling careers.
Trivisa opens on April 7
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