Accident (aka Yi ngoi) Blu-ray Review
Directed by Pou-Soi Cheang
Written by Kam-Yuen Szeto and Lik-Kei Tang
2009, Region A (NTSC), 87 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on June 19th, 2012
Louis Koo as Brain
Richie Ren as Chan Fong-Chow
Shui Fan-Fung as Uncle
Michelle Ye as Woman
Suet Lam as Fatty
Alexander Chan as Wong
When is an accident not really an accident? This question is first posed following a perfectly orchestrated assassination of a Chinese Triad leader. The team that pulls off this task is a quartet of trained assassins known simply as Brain, Uncle, Fatty and Woman. Their generic appearance and mundane behavior allows them to perform a public execution and immediately disappear into a crowd unnoticed. They have never been arrested nor suspected of any crime, as their work is an art form and nobody suspects the truth.
A routine hit turns into a nightmare for our anti-heroes, as it takes numerous attempts to accomplish, and although ultimately successful, comes with the price of the death of a team member. Knowing they are not the only game in town, Brain becomes increasingly suspicious of everyone and everything around him. Coincidences do not exist for people in this line of work. There is no such thing as an accident. Brain becomes obsessed with solving this mystery at all costs and the surviving members of his team are in for a long journey.
While Accident appears initially to be a traditional Chinese crime thriller, it quickly becomes an inspired character drama. The plot unfolds in two distinct halves and everything audiences clearly knew to be true in the beginning is called into question by the devastating conclusion.
Louis Koo (Election) carries this film almost single handedly as Brain, the paranoid leader. His minimalist performance balances the extreme privacy of the character while systematically sharing enough information about this highly suspicious individual to make him accessible to audiences.
There is a dynamic among the ensemble cast that frequently plays like a dysfunctional family. The unsung hero however is Shui Fan-Fung as Uncle, a veteran member of the team who serves as the lookout, but with a failing memory. His depiction of the old man’s mental decline is both touchingly sympathetic as he struggles with his confusion and yet offers a perfect angle for Brain’s suspicion of the sincerity of Uncle’s ailment. Michelle Ye is quite attractive as Woman, a trait used as a distraction for the primarily male targets, but she is given little to do beyond occasionally act suspicious. Suet Lam’s Fatty is instantly likeable and appears quite comfortable in the role of Brain’s assistant.
Director Pou-Soi Cheang (Dog Bite Dog) creates an environment of psychological torture with an ease that many lesser filmmakers could easily fumble given the familiarity of the genre and basic plot. While the set-up of the team’s precision is nicely depicted with a series of Rube Goldberg tactics certain to please fans of the Final Destination franchise, the second half of the film is very reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation with Koo in the Hackman role, haunted by his past and never knowing truth from suspicion until it is too late.
Accident is produced by legendary filmmaker Johnnie To (Breaking News) and while it is Soi-Cheang’s picture, To’s influence is evident. Fans will also recognize many familiar faces in the cast from To’s Milky Way Image production company. The film is not perfect, but there are enough working elements to keep audiences guessing through the brisk running time. Some viewers may feel inclined to immediately watch the film a second time to pick up on the many subtle ambiguities that continue to push Brain to the edge.
Video and Audio:
Shout! Factory drops the ball with an embarrassing transfer one might expect from the disappointing ghetto releases of Echo Bridge Blu-rays. Although shot in a 2:39 widescreen aspect ratio, the picture here is blown up to 1:78, making action scenes difficult to follow. In addition to this unfortunate fumble, compression issues plague this release, colors are dull, fine detail is absent and black levels are muddy. Shameful.
The footage that appears in the behind-the-scenes featurette is correctly framed and yet Shout! Factory does not provide an explanation for this slip. A sticker on the cover explaining a lack of proper source elements would have gone a long way, but unfortunately this lack of acknowledgment is a deal breaker.
Audio is presented in a respectable Cantonese DTS-HD 5.1 master audio track that brings the action sequences to life in a way that will only compound the hatred for the video transfer as a key chase sequence sounds great but is difficult to keep up with visually. The majority of the film is a quiet character piece and the dialogue is crisp and clean.
The limited extras are highlighted by a twelve minute behind-the-scenes featurette that includes interviews with members of the cast and crew. Nothing exciting here, but it is nice to see clips from the movie in the correct 2:35 aspect ratio. Sorry Shout! Factory, I can’t let it go. You guys are too good for a rookie mistake like this to sully your reputation.
The original theatrical trailer is also offered for your viewing pleasure.
*Note: The screenshots on this page are not a reflection of the Blu-ray image. They were captured using the standard DVD.*