Film review: The Vanished Murderer – Lau Ching-wan returns as the good detective in The Bullet Vanishes sequel
Engrossing visual style and gloomy ambience backed up by great action sequences
Hong Kong filmmaker Lo Chi-leung’s 1930s-set detective action-thriller series returns for its second outing with most of its key components back: Lau Ching-wan in the lead as the justice-obsessed forensic expert Song Donglu; an insistently twisty story delivered with gloomy ambience and engrossing visual style; and even the strikingly particular premise about aggrieved factory workers’ fatal attempts to take revenge against a murderous management that’s run like a totalitarian state.
Again directed and written by Lo (with co-scriptwriter Yeung Sin-ling), this competent follow-up to 2012’s The Bullet Vanishes opens shortly after the events of the first film, which are mostly forgotten here. Instead, it jumps straight to the miraculous prison break of Fu Yuan (Jiang Yiyan), the convicted murderer who previously served as Song’s informal advisor and tentative love interest. As the beautiful fugitive flees to Hong City to carry out a revenge plot, Song follows.
In a setting that could inspire any number of political interpretations, the depression-stricken city is viciously run by a dominant tycoon (Guo Xiaodong), whose collusion with government officials has allowed his own private militia to oppress and exploit his workforce. When workers begin to jump to their deaths in suspicious circumstances, Song steps in to investigate, with assistance from a righteous local cop (Rhydian Vaughan) and a childhood friend (Li Xiaolu) Song was once set to marry.
While it’s less Holmesian in plotting than Bullet – the student-inciting efforts by Gordon Lam Ka-tung’s socially minded philosophy professor leave little to the imagination – The Vanished Murderer does consistently impress with its noirish flourish. Viewers looking for background expositions for Lau and Jiang’s returning characters are in for a disappointment, but Lo’s penchant for showstopping action sequences makes sure there’s at least mind-boggling fun to be had.
The Vanished Murderer opens on December 3