Tsui Hark used to be one of Hong Kong’s most innovative film-makers during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, but his recent projects have failed to capture the creativity and vitality of his earlier works. In the last few months, The Missing 深海尋人 – Tsui’s latest film – received decent press exposure, not because of overwhelming interest in the production, but because of Isabella Leong’s alleged refusal to participate in promotional activities. I went to see the film today, the first day of its screening in Hong Kong, and I was rather disappointed; it turned out that the film is aptly titled as it in fact is very missing in plot and direction.
The plot of The Missing is overly convoluted and offers too many twists in the final act, so much so that it becomes annoying. Personally, I though Hark could have wrapped up the film without the final act, which renders all the previous plot turns irrelevant. At nearly 2 hours in duration, the film is needlessly long too. Basically what happens is a couple who are about to get married go scuba diving but the male dies. Details of how the boyfriend dies is withheld – the girlfriend cannot recall how tragedy struck and believes she is seeing ghosts. But is she losing her mind or do spirits really exist? You get the drift . . .
I don’t require films to be technically outstanding, boast brilliant acting or riveting plots in order to like them. In fact, I very much enjoy B-grade films with confusing plots as they often offer more entertainment and creativity (within and outside genre conventions). For me, the problem with The Missing is it is an unimaginative B-grader masquerading as a big budget project. While it has more than its share of genre cliches, the film has none of the vibrancy of a good B-grade film (like Tsui’s early creations). The film is directionless and there is no real emotional core, so viewers will not care about any of the characters. Hark also cannot decide whether the film ought to be a straight thriller, a horror or a romance; the tone shifts back and forth, and the films end up not being satisfactory for fans of any of those genres. Technically, the much touted underwater photography is under-whelming and the sound effects are too loud (as if the sound editor wanted to test the low frequency output of his cinema system – this will no doubt be a selling point for the imminent DVD release). The performances by the 2 core actresses Angelica Lee and Isabella Leong are serviceable but hardly outstanding. Lee is a likable actress and was much better in The Eye.
Also, an awful theme song gets played ad infinitum during the film. In short, the film is a letdown. Not recommended. Go see Tsui’s The Butterfly Murders (vintage HK New Wave) or his last great film The Blade instead.