A Witness Out Of The Blue


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

A Witness Out Of The Blue
"Not everything works all the time but Fung's attention to character detail pays off, so that they carry you through the weaker moments of the story." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

There's an addictive retro feel to this pacy Hong Kong crime thriller from Fung Chi-Keung that sees a hapless cop unexpectedly working in tandem with a jewel thief - even if some may be disappointed that the hotly touted parrot witness of the film's title only flies in for a cameo moment here and there.

What better way to show that officer Larry Lam (Louis Cheung) is both sweet and bungling than by having him in hock to a low-rent criminal over a cat shelter he's set up within the first few minutes before landing him, face first, in the murder victim at a crime scene? It's there he also meets the parrot - screeching, "Help, help" - which he comes to believe can help him identify the killer.

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Fung knows how to get an audience hooked, setting up all this quirkiness - complete with Larry's stickler boss Yip (Philip Keung) and peppy sidekick Charmaine (Cherry Ngan) - before flashing back to the jewel heist that the dead man was involved with. The thieves are led by icy criminal Sean Wong (Louis Koo, immaculate as always) but things don't go smoothly. Back in the here and now, Sean is the chief suspect in the latest killing but, if that's the case, why does Larry encounter him also apparently investigating the murder?

Given the number of plot convolutions, as Larry's suspicions about other potential killers begin to build, it's testimony to Fung's writing skill that he finds time to flesh out some back story, including a sweet, if ultimately over-sentimental, subplot involving the house Sean hides out in. It's a sort of sub-Ladykillers establishment, run by a young woman who is losing her sight and housing an octogenarian, a nonagenarian and a soon-to-be centurion, charmingly called, Auntie Eight, Uncle Nine and Century.

Larry may believe "It's futile to walk too fast" but that's clearly not a view shared by Fung, whose film is screening at the Fantasia Film Festival. He keeps his foot on the gas throughout here, whether he's blowing things up, staging shootouts or trying to jam in a bit of psychological guilt - Sean's Automatic Negative Thoughts are, amusingly, represented by ants. Not everything works all the time but Fung's attention to character detail pays off, so that they carry you through the weaker moments of the story. The film also looks great, the warmth of Sean's landlady (Jessica Hsuan) mirrored by the colour scheme of her apartment, that echoes her sunny personality, while Sean's room is dominated by a cooler greenish blue. The parrot also adds a splash of colour, both physical and comedic, in the right places, although it's very much a bit part player.

This is a deliberately dramatic film, right down to the enjoyably out-sized score from Peter Kam, which also sweeps you up from the film's opening moments. You could quibble about the multiple endings, the under-exploration of the film's psychological underpinnings or the amount that's going on - but this is never less than entertaining.

Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2020
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A Witness Out Of The Blue packshot
A bungling detective investigates a jewel heist.

Director: Chi Keung Fung

Writer: Chi Keung Fung

Starring: Louis Koo, Jessica Hester Hsuan, Louis Cheung

Year: 2019

Runtime: 104 minutes

Country: Hong Kong


Fantasia 2020

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