With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

CROSS available today on DVD and Digital HD from Well Go USA

Well Go USA
Presents
 Cross / Tian ma xing xiong
Directed by Daniel Chan Yee-Heng
Hong Kong, 2012, 86 minutes

Cross is a psychological crime thriller about an ultra-religious serial killer. It debuts on DVD and Digital HD in North America today, June 23rd from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Veteran Hong Kong actor Simon Yam (Dr. Lamb, Naked Killer, SPL, and 200 other credits that are listed on his home page at IMDb) stars as Lee Leung, an optician. The film begins with him going to a police station where he confesses to having killed several people and provides evidence of his actions. He explains that his wife had leukemia and that after she committed suicide, he was convinced that she wouldn't go to heaven because such an act is a most serious sin.

To save others who were inclined to kill themselves from eternal damnation -- and to possibly redeem his wife's sin -- he began to frequent an online forum for those contemplating suicide. There he communicated with some individuals and arranged to dispatch them so that they would not be damned. Thus he thought of himself as not a murderer, but as God's agent, saving individuals from the sin of committing suicide. He absolutely believed that their deaths had to be with "serenity and joy." A death that turned out to be not peaceful was the reason for him coming to the police.

As two individuals investigate the crimes, it begins to appear that things may not be as straightforward as they seem. More and more, the evidence starts to suggest that Lee has actually not been acting on his own, but rather has been manipulated by someone to unknowingly do their murderous bidding.

The premise is a fine one: a religious fanatic who believes he's doing God's will, but instead may be little more than a puppet for someone with a totally unholy agenda. It could also serve as a cautionary tale about relying on information found on the Internet.

Unfortunately the film is a total mess. Maybe it's a problem with the subtitles, but the two individuals who investigate the murders are never precisely identified. In any case, one of them goes to Lee's home, where he puts on Lee's clothes and acts as if he were Lee, presumably to "get into" Lee's head. Just how the conclusion is reached that Lee has been manipulated isn't at all clear, not even remotely. The situation is not helped either by one significant character, for no apparent reason, being played by two different actors, one in the present, the other in flashbacks, of which there are many.

I was so amazed by how bad the film was that I wondered if I had just missed everything that would make it something better. Unable to find it at IMDb, I went to the film's Wikepedia entry. There I found a link to the film's IMDB page (where it is listed as Tian ma xing xion and has a deservedly dismal rating of 4.4 out of 10 from 45 users) as well as links to a few other reviews.

According to several sources I consulted (including the Hong Kong Movie Database, Love Hong Kong Film, and Asian Film Strike), a total of four directors (who also served as scriptwriters) worked on the film over the course of well over a year, a very long time for such a short final product. (Besides Daniel Chan, the only director listed at IMDb, the other directors/scriptwriters were Steve Woo, Lau Kin-Ping and Hui Shu-Ning.) Each of the reviewers had pretty much the same negative opinion of the final work as I did. So the fault seems to be with the film, not with my reaction to it.

AsianCineFest Rating: 1 out of 4 stars, i.e., "poor." Overall a waste of time and talent, most particularly Simon Yam's.

[Note: a slightly different version of this review was cross-posted at the VCinema website.]

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