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May7th, 2001 Issue #55

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

Homicidal Maniac
(2000; Universe Films Distribution Co. / Matrix Productions Company / China Horse Films Production Company): 2/10

Cover art courtesy Universe.

Bin tai saat yan kong

Bian tai sha ren kuang

Homicidal Maniac

From the $1.98 opening credits to the tired scenario to the incredibly slack pacing, this low-grade production (co-directed by Kim Au-fan and kung fu veteran Lee Tso-nam) all but gets down on its knees and pleads with you to give in and hit the "Eject" button. Granted, one does not pick up a movie called HOMICIDAL MANIAC expecting to be illuminated about the mysteries of the human condition but even the most impoverished exploitation productions have to deliver on a few rudimentary levels and the makers of this one just couldn't be bothered making the effort.

Patrick Tam Yiu-man. Image courtesy Universe.

In the opening sequence, a man dressed entirely in black attacks a group of drunken revellers (including Wong Chi-yeung and Bobby Yip King-sang), with a subsequent explosion apparently killing everyone involved. Yekin Li (Patrick Tam Yiu-man, looped by someone else) had quarrelled with one of the men in the past, prompting a visit from Inspector Wu (Lam Wai). Yekin's over protective sister (Emily Kwan Bo-wai) does not take kindly to the officer's questions and arouses Wu's suspicions with her behavior.

Emily Kwan Bo-wai. Image courtesy Universe.

While out walking one day, Yekin encounters the beautiful Millin Ho (Angie Cheung Wai-yee) and is convinced that he has found his dream girl. Millin, however, was just being nice to Yekin for saving her from being flattened by a speeding car. With their parents now deceased, Millin and her younger sister, Millie, have inherited the family restaurant, much to the annoyance of their Uncle Bill (Norman Tsui Siu-keung), who is up to his ears in debt and demands that 50% of the establishment be turned over to him. When Millin refuses, Bill tries to sabotage the business by putting cockroaches in the soup, including a bowl ordered by Yekin. Instead of contacting the authorities, he helps Millin by eating the bug, claiming that it is actually a mushroom. Yekin also just happens to be around to save Millie from a would-be rapist and Yekin’s obsession with winning Millin's favor causes dangerous changes in his behavior. Yekin goes even further over the edge when he discovers that Millin has a fiancee (Lok Tat-wah), whose uncle just happens to be Inspector Wu. Meanwhile, a series of murders are occurring and, while Yekin is the most obvious suspect, Wu cannot prove conclusively that he is responsible.

Angie Cheung Wai-yee (left) and Lok Tat-wah (right). Image courtesy Universe.

Actually, Yekin is not the most obvious suspect and, if you have read this far, you have no doubt already guessed who is. The thin storyline is endlessly padded (which might explain the two directors) and the majority of the film is poorly made (quick cuts cannot disguise the fact that a flaming man is obviously nothing but a rigid mannequin), with two of the lamest on-foot chase scenes in memory. Unless your idea of entertainment is watching Patrick Tam playing endlessly with hunting knives, the one and the only draw here is the above average cast, all of whom deserve better (except, perhaps, for Emily Kwan, who seems to go out of her way to appear movies this bad). The soundtrack includes cues swiped from Brad Feidel's score for TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY.

Lam Wai (right) and Norman Tsui (left). Image courtesy Universe.

DVD Specs:

Universe #5523
Dolby Digital (5.1)
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Optional Subtitles In English or Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
8 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Clips
Letterboxed (1.75:1)
Category IIB (for mid-range violence)
92 Minutes

DVD menu courtesy Universe.

Some sequences are better than others but, considering its cheapjack origins, the movie looks fine overall and even genuinely good in some scenes. The 5.1 tracks (both post-synched) have occasional channel separations but were clearly basic mono mixes to begin with, and occasionally sound stretched beyond their limits. The English translation is terrible; even viewers with only the most marginal grasp of Cantonese will note several spots where the English subtitles do not at all reflect what is being said. Extras consist of Star Files on Patrick Tam and Angie Cheung, a fittingly terrible trailer, and trailers for KILLERS FROM BEIJING and VIOLENT COP (the one with Patrick Tam and Pinky Cheung Man-chi).

Patrick Tam and Angie Cheung. Image courtesy Universe.

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review