Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cross: Simon Yam Saves Souls

They say confession is good for the soul, but probably not in Lee Leung’s case. He has turned himself into the authorities after failing in his divinely inspired mission. His body count is carefully documented, but there might be more to his story than meets the eye in Daniel Chan’s Cross (trailer here), which releases today on regular DVD and digital platforms from Well Go USA.

The fact that co-directors Steve Woo, Lau Kin Ping, and Hui Shu Ning are all credited with helping to complete Cross over a two year period does not inspire a boatload of confidence. On the plus side, it stars Simon Yam as Lee Leung. In fact, it is not the dreary anti-Catholic diatribe we might expect, even though Yam’s serial killer is most definitely devout. Reeling from his terminally ill wife’s suicide, Lee Leung starts to kill off members who post on an online suicide forum, at their own invitation, thereby saving them from mortal sin. They are supposed to pass peacefully, so when he botches his latest assignment, he remorsefully turns surrenders to the police.

Professor Cheung, the police psychoanalyst, starts to investigate the case, at which point the film turns strangely sympathetic towards Lee Leung. It is clear his wife’s death deeply damaged his psyche. However, he may have been manipulated by an outside agency.

Unfortunately, just as the film builds up the mystery surrounding his murders, Chan (or whoever) blithely pulls out a Jenga block, making the entire tower collapse. There are also massive timeline issues with the ultimate truth, but at least there are some nice stylistic touches in how it is revealed.

Cross definitely feels edited-together, but as usual, Yam is rock solid as Lee Leung. It largely confirms our unspoken theorem that every Simon Yam film is worth seeing. Kenny Wong Tak-bun is also terrific as Prof. Cheung, an obsessively empathetic character worthy of his own franchise treatment (which stands no chance of happening). It is also amusing to see Nick Cheung appear in a small role just as his career was igniting.

You can readily see how if circumstances had been different, Cross might have worked quite well. It is still considerably exceeds the expectations established by its reputation. While it should not be anyone’s introduction to Hong Kong cinema, Yam fans will find its consistent moodiness strangely watchable. Consider this a bemused defense more than a recommendation now that it is available from Well Go USA.