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April 15th, 2002 Issue #104

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

Color of Pain
(2002; Art Port / Sameway / Matsushita Agency Corporation / eMovie)

Cover art courtesy Universe.

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Ye long
Mandarin: Ye lang
English: Wild Wolf

Shot in the head while performing his latest job, assassin Ryuya (Kenya Sawada) survives but is told that any attempt to remove the bullet will prove fatal. Subject to brief but excruciating headaches, Ryuya stumbles into the middle of a bank robbery being pulled by hoods Cat (Sam Lee Chan-sam), Dino (Terence Yin Chi-wai), and Doggie (Tony Ho Wah-chiu), and volunteers to be the trio's hostage. Once they have made their getaway, Ryuya informs them that he wants to join the gang but only for the thrills, not the money. Impressed by his ability to handle a gun, the men agree to include him on their next heist. Meanwhile, SDU sharpshooter Joe Cheung (Raymond Wong Ho-yin) is still trying to get over accidentally killing a policewoman during a hostage-taking incident. After receiving psychological counselling (which seems to have had little effect), Joe resigns from SDU and joins the regular police force. While staking out an underground boxing match, he gets his first glimpse of Ryuya, who proceeds to beat up the champion fighter and steal an expensive car belonging to the triad boss (Hugo Ng Toi-yung) running the event. Recognizing a kindred spirit, Joe befriends Ryuya but it is seems clear that their paths will likely cross again one day under far less amicable circumstances.

Kenya Sawada. Image courtesy Universe.
Click here for a still (from left to right) of Sam Lee, Terence Yin and Tony Ho (courtesy Universe)

A HK / Japan co-production, COLOR OF PAIN features a predictably awkward mixture of Cantonese, English, and Japanese. There is one clever bit, however, where Ryuya and Joe talk about the past in their native tongues, thus sharing these secrets only with the viewer, not each other. The rest of the picture adheres to the usual tenets, with writer / co-producer / director Sam Leung Tak-sam channelling both John Woo and Wong Kar-wai for visual inspiration. While the set-up is certainly derivative, the film shows some promise before the contrivances really begin to pile up in the final third (the sequence where Joe redeems himself in the eyes of his partners is so contrived, one initially believes it to be nothing more than a dream). The leads are competent but the best work here is done by supporting players Josie Ho Chiu-yee (as Joe's by-the-book but understanding superior), Lam Suet (as a disgraced "God of Guns"), and Jun Kunimura (a familiar face in such HK films as HARD BOILED, TREASURE HUNT, and THE BLUE JEAN MONSTER, where he is billed under the Cantonese name Kwok Chuen-chun). Risa Goto and Lok Ying-kwan also appear.

DVD Specs:

Universe #5954 (Hong Kong label)
Sync Sound International Version (Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS) and Dubbed Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Optional Subtitles In English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
8 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Clips
Letterboxed (1.85:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
96 Minutes
Contains moderate violence and language

DVD menu courtesy Universe.

Film Board Ratings and Consumer Advice

Hong Kong: IIB
Singapore: PG


Much of the film looks soft and hazy but that appears to be conceptual. The digital compression is dodgy, however, resulting in some instances of background smearing. The transfer has apparently been converted from PAL, as the keep case promises a running time of 100 minutes. Although sloppy in spots, the stereo mix is very effective, with one jump-inducing bit of channel separation. The sound field is expansive and Kiyoshi Yoshikawa's intriguingly atypical score is well-served. There are no extras.

COLOR OF PAIN is available at Poker Industries.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2002. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com

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