Heart­fall Arises

HK Magazine - - FILM - Sophia Lam

(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.

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