Justin Cheung and Linah Matsuoka in a still from Deception of the Novelist (category IIB), directed by Christopher Sun. Jeana Ho co-stars
Justin Cheung and Linah Matsuoka in a still from Deception of the Novelist (category IIB), directed by Christopher Sun. Jeana Ho co-stars

Review |
Deception of the Novelist film review: sexy infidelity drama gives way to unconvincing murder thriller

  • Story of a husband blackmailed by a lover, who is mysteriously killed, derives its interest from the murderer’s audacious attempt to hide his, or her, tracks
  • Despite intense performances from Justin Cheung and Jeana Ho as an unhappily married couple, the film has too many laboured twists and turns
Topic |   Chinese language cinema
Justin Cheung and Linah Matsuoka in a still from Deception of the Novelist (category IIB), directed by Christopher Sun. Jeana Ho co-stars
Justin Cheung and Linah Matsuoka in a still from Deception of the Novelist (category IIB), directed by Christopher Sun. Jeana Ho co-stars

2.5/5 stars

An unhappy marriage goes straight to hell in the sexy thriller Deception of the Novelist, an ambitiously scripted yet ultimately unconvincing film by Christopher Sun Lap-key, director of 2015’s
Imprisoned: Survival Guide for Rich and Prodigal
and 2011’s
3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy
.
The last in a trilogy of films adapted from stories by internet author XXharuki – following the erotic drama Due West: Our Sex Journey (2012) and social parody
The Sinking City: Capsule Odyssey
(2017) – Sun’s film morphs from titillating infidelity drama to murder mystery and then, briefly and somewhat unnecessarily, to torture-porn wannabe.
Acquainted since their adolescence and now married with a young son, popular novelist Jay (Justin Cheung Kin-seng,
Rhapsody of Kidnapping
) and former nurse Kiki (Jeana Ho Pui-yu,
Special Female Force
) have seen their relationship become fraught because of his womanising ways and her diminishing interest in their family affairs.

Shortly after a beautiful woman named Elaine (Linah Matsuoka) moves into one of his vacant properties, situated one floor above the luxury flat in which the family lives, Jay begins a sexual affair with his new tenant and clumsily hides it from Kiki. When Elaine begins to blackmail him, and his amoral buddies (6-Wing and C-Kwan, from the hip hop act Fama) plant the idea of murder in Jay’s head, things take a fatal turn.

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Efficiently scripted by Shum Sek-yin (who also scripted 2018’s
Keyboard Warriors
), this bluntly titled movie derives its interest less from the shock of the crime – we see from the first scene that a woman has fallen to her death – than from the sheer audacity of the suspected murderer’s plan to mislead the police and cover his, or her, tracks.
Linah Matsuoka in a still from Deception of the Novelist.
Linah Matsuoka in a still from Deception of the Novelist.

While Matsuoka’s manipulative seductress proves less interesting than she initially appears, Cheung and Ho revel in being given top billing and offer unexpectedly intense performances as the conflicted couple.

It’s too bad that the film never quite convinces because of its laboured twists and turns; the suspected murder at its centre is investigated using the flimsiest methods. Deception of the Novelist is fun while it lasts – even if it doesn’t hold up upon further inspection.

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