(Hong Kong) Action/Crime/Drama. Directed by Ken Wu. Starring Nicholas Tse, Sean Lau Ching-wan, Mavis Fan. Category IIB. 108 minutes. Note: Screening has been postponed until October. Local cinemagoers are no strangers to the Nicholas Tse/Sean Lau duo. Four years after the incredible success of “The Bullet Vanishes,” they meet again in “Heartfall Arises.” We’re happy to be fed another dose of the actors’ chemistry, but even this formula fails to make “Heartfall Arises” stand out among the many other current entries in the cop vs. criminal genre.
Nicholas Tse plays Ma, a detective who is shot in the heart when he corners The General—a Robin Hood-wannabe serial killer who targets tycoons. Ma undergoes a successful heart transplant, and is subsequently out and about again.
Fast forward to 18 months later, and the city is seeing a spate of homicides that have The General written all over them. Ma teams up with criminal psychologist Professor Che (played by Lau) for the investigation, during which both develop suspicions about the other’s true intentions.
As expected, Sean Lau outshines the rest of the cast. His calm, almost emotionless face recalls his role as a schizophrenic murderer in the 2015 thriller “Insanity.” Tse, meanwhile, who has a track record of working with first-time directors from “As the Light Goes Out” (2014) to “The Bullet Vanishes” (2015), seems to be striking a moody pose no matter whether he’s thinking, drinking water or simply staring into nothing.
An honorable mention goes to Babyjohn Choi, whose character as Ma’s little sidekick shines a ray of sunshine between the sinister mind games being played by Che and Ma. His slow-witted, well-meaning character comes across as that of the small fry who’s desperate to do his job well, making him perhaps the most human character in the story.
Watching “Heartfall Arises” feels like a fairground ride:
You know where it’s leading, so it all comes down to how exciting the loops and twists are. But given that the director shoots us clues through flashbacks wherever possible, frankly, it doesn’t take a genius to work out who’s behind it all halfway through the film.
The second half of the film drags out, as the director forces in half-developed themes in an attempt to make the plot more thought-provoking—such as a steady shower of unfathomable allusions to Chinese chess. And while I have nothing against the upbeat theme song (Tse does a pretty good job with his Beyond-style interpretation), the directorial decision to play it over a scene in which he’s racing down the street after Professor Che simply makes it look like a 90s gangster film, especially with cheesy lyrics like “Break through the obstacles, it’s time to start over...”
But the film’s biggest failure is that it ramps up so much excitement—what with The General’s impossible escape from Tsing Ma Bridge using a pair of mechanical wings, and the dramatic scene where Ma is shot in the chest—that the final faceoff is a huge anticlimax. In “Heartfall Arises” the audience gets dragged through a tedious second act, and by the end we’re just looking for someone to start our hearts up again.