Legally Declared Dead (NC16)
Starring Anthony Wong, Karena Lam, Carlos Chan, Kathy Yuen
Directed by Yuen Kim Wai
Carlos Chan stars as Yip, an insurance agent who suspects his client, Chu (Anthony Wong, Hongkong cinema’s creep du jour), has murdered his teenage stepson for the latter’s insurance money. As Yip digs deeper into the case (the cops are conveniently left out of the investigation — they’re probably busy arresting pro-democracy protestors), he has reasons to believe that Chu is a homicidal loony plotting to off his visually-impaired wife Shum (Karena Lam) for a big payout. But nothing is what it appears to be…
If you’re making a thriller and you need a dependable rogue, you give Anthony Wong a call — he can do no wrong. The second he turns up on screen, he gives you the heebie jeebies. For director Yuen Kim Wai, casting Wong is a no-brainer but Karena Lam as his missus? A misfire. She has played against type before — in Mob Sister and Home Sweet Home, with risible results — but here her eternally sweet demeanor gets in the way of the viewer buying into the idea of Chu and Shum’s somewhat murky relationship and the macabre conspiracy they’re embroiled in.
As Legally Declared Dead progresses, it ditches psychological thrills for cheap scares of a slasher flick. Nothing wrong with that — if only it had the balls to see it through. It has the spirit of a ’90s Category III exploitation horror (the kind Wong is notorious for — hello, The Untold Story) except all the nastiness are excised. For a NC16 movie, it’s pretty mild. I’d love to list the moments which can use more blood, but I’m worried about spoilers. Then again, how do you spoil a movie that’s already spoilt? (**)
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