Accident (2009)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-05-22 06:01

Written by: Kam-Yuen Szeto (screenplay), Lik-Kei Tang (screenplay)
Directed by: Pou-Soi Cheang
Starring: Louis Koo, Richie Ren and Shui-Fan Fung | See full cast and crew

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

"These accidents were not accidents..."

If you still have a video store standing in your area, you probably wonít find Accident sitting in its horror section; itís more of a revenge thriller from the same mold as other recent Asian films that feature guys attempting to kill each other, at least at its core. But whatís cool about Accident is that it twists the concept and filters it through a low-key mediation on revenge thatís actually far removed from its hyper-violent contemporaries, and itís actually wrapped up in a hook that is subtly reminiscent of Final Destinationís elaborately-staged death traps.

In this case, though, the traps arenít staged by death itself; instead, a group of master assassins orchestrate their hits with a series of complex plots that end in their target being killed in staged ďaccidentsĒ that canít be traced back to them. They typically pull this off with a cool efficiency, but one of their attempts is soured when a team member is killed by a bus that skids out of control. Their leader, Brain (Louis Kee), is convinced that this was no accident and that they, too, have been set up by another group.

Accident ends up being a film of halves, with the first half being a rather brilliant maneuvering of audience empathy. Weíre watching bad people do bad things since these guys will kill anyone if the moneyís right, be it a Triad mobster or a rich old benefactor who needs to kill over so someone can collect an inheritance. This rarely seems to be a problem because you slowly find yourself in suspense over whether or not theyíll pull it off, and I dare say thereís a weird sense of admiration that comes from watching Brain and his associates hatch their plots. The opening scene is especially intriguing because itís a cold opening that drops you right into the middle of one of these schemes as it unfolds; watching this scene especially recalls Final Destination because there are a lot of moving parts that end up comprising a Rube Goldberg-style deathtrap.

By the time you reach the second part of the film--where Brain becomes increasingly paranoid and begins staking out apartment buildings and tracking the man he thinks has marked him for death--youíre somehow on his side as you watch him descend into his obsession. His own tragic past also begins to get peeled back to reveal a man thatís haunted by loss, and Kee admirably carries the filmís load by appearing in nearly every scene. Kee finds the tiniest kernel of humanity in a man whose icy, detached demeanor makes him a perfect cipher for the filmís themes of obsession and paranoia. Accident sort of ends up being like Bronsonís The Mechanic by way of The Conversation or Blow-Out in that it explores the underlying existentialism of the criminal underbelly. Brainís world is filled with distrust and misdirection, and his insularity envelops and absorbs us into its fatalistic sense of propulsion.

Pou-Soi Cheang directs the feel to reflect his protagonistís demeanor; Accident is expertly crafted with each scene carefully calculated not unlike Brainís exquisitely-plotted schemes. Thereís a perpetual air of somberness, and the film is a stark contrast to many of its more sensationalized peers. Accident paints a serene, cold portrait of a man blinded by his own paranoia and desire for revenge (ironic, then, that his final plot involves blinding oncoming traffic), and it rarely raises its voice above a whisper. As such, the gore you may have come to associate with these sorts of films is especially muted; outside of the opening sequence that features a hail of shattered glass, the film relies more on building suspense, and there is one great, jolty pay-off in there too.

Accident is crisp and cool, a fascinating little thriller that doesnít squander its hook; instead, it embraces it and is crafted with a precision befitting a meticulous assassin, as Pou-Soi Cheang precisely puts his film together before taking it back apart with a surgical ease. It may not be a straight horror film, but it posits some scarily existential things about how the world will eventually have its way with us despite our best efforts. A cosmic sense of karmic irony eventually arises to reminds us that the best laid plans of mice and men are often in vain. Accident premiered in Toronto way back in 2009, but itís just now making its way to Region 1 home video thanks to Shout Factory, who have prepped both a DVD and Blu-ray offering; the high-def presentation is very good--the film is gorgeous to behold thanks to the video transfer, and the Cantonese DTS-MA track fully immerses you, especially during the assassination sequences. Extras include a making-of featurette and the filmís trailer, but the film itself definitely makes this a package worth checking out. Buy it!

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