image

Chinese language cinema

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

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 April, 2016, 7:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 April, 2016, 7:55pm

4/5 stars

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.

Is Hong Kong at a dead end? Nihilistic films The Mobfathers, Trivisa and Robbery suggest it is

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

Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook