Review: PUNISHED 報應 (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Review: PUNISHED 報應 (2011)

Review: PUNISHED 報應 (2011)

At the beginning of the movie, we learn that real estate tycoon Wong Ho-Chiu (Anthony Wong) and his ex-convict loyal bodyguard Chor (Richie Ren) has discovered the dead body of Chiu's daughter Daisy (Janice Man) who is kidnapped and murdered. Told in non-linear narrative structure, the movie flashes back and forth on how Daisy comes to such eventual doom. Daisy is a rebellious and spoiled rich girl who likes to overspend her father's money, particularly when she is addicted to drugs. One night during her stepmother's (Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee) birthday, she wants to go to Bolivia for vacation but her father disagrees because he wants her to go to rehab instead. The following day Daisy continue to argue over the matter and ends up running away from home. Things go awry when Wong receives a phone message saying that she has been kidnapped, but he quickly dismisses it as a scheme to get money out of him. The kidnapper demands HK$50 million for ransom and Wong ends up paying the money, hoping he can get back his daughter in no time. Unfortunately, Daisy ends up dead, prompting Wong to take matters in his own hand. With nothing to lose, Wong enlists Chor to help him locate and kill whoever responsible for Daisy's death.

REVIEW: I'm sure a lot of die-hard fans are eagerly waiting for the next Johnnie To's trademark edgy crime movie to hit cinemas this year (and that would be LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE which starred Lau Ching-Wan, Richie Ren and Denise Ho). But for now, let's settle for this little Milkyway-produced crime thriller called PUNISHED which is directed by To's regular protege, Law Wing-Cheong (who co-directed 2001's RUNNING OUT OF TIME 2, and also acted some of To's movies including 2008's SPARROW and 2009's VENGEANCE). The good news is, PUNISHED offers some of the edgy materials that Milkyway fans come to expect -- credible performances, thematic depth, a sudden burst of violence -- but it's also a huge disappointment. Blame it to Law Wing-Cheong who prefers to go by-the-book formula and pedestrian approach to round things up in a surprisingly flat-out effort.

At the first glance, Fung Chih-Chiang and Lam Fung's non-linear screenplay is a nice touch to spin an oft-told kidnap-and-revenge story with some karmic undertones thrown into the mix. Unfortunately, Law Wing-Cheong executes their supposedly ambitious story into a terribly half-realised result. Most of the times, the story is heavy-handed that frequently drained out most of the tension here. But of all the flaws he made here is the lack of visual style needed badly to elevate the entire story. Sure, there are moments of well-staged action scenes (the one where Chor tortures one of the kidnappers with a sledgehammer is particularly shocking, and another one involves a tense shootout inside a factory) but there are just too little. Instead, Law Wing-Cheong prefers to go meaty by exploring Wong's psychological breakdown from an arrogant tycoon to a depressing individual who is about to lose his sanity. Again, it's a nice touch but the director fails to present that particular approach into thought-provoking manner. Other than that, PUNISHED feels strangely too static without being interesting most of the times -- something that Johnnie To does a whole lot better in his movies.

Cast-wise, most of the actors (particularly Anthony Wong and Richie Ren) are at least credible enough. But Janice Man is quite disappointing in her bratty role. Perhaps she is way too one-sided that we hardly care for her character.

Overall, I'm sad to say that PUNISHED is one of the weakest Milkyway productions in recent years.

Despite the fresh angle injected on the oft-told kidnap-and-revenge storyline, Law Wing-Cheong's supposedly ambitious PUNISHED is sadly lacking the necessary tension to make this work.

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