by Chen Kuo Fu, 2002, 110 min. starring Tony Leung, David Morse,
Rene Liu, Sihung Lung, Kuei-Mei Yang, Wei-Han Huang, and Dai Li
all the talk about Hollywood Studios invading Asia, there is, of
course,the downside of Hollywoodizing Asian films. The
trend of Asian remakes is bombing along at a frighteningly high
rate, so it seems bothersome to a few that the US studio system
might take the inherent mystique out of domestic Asian films when
they infiltrate Asian film studios.
the newly minted Asian division of Columbia Tri-Star finally up
and running, it seems that now is the time to develop fresh, international
quality films with a decidedly Asian flavor for the international
market. With the actioneer So Close already under their
belt, they've chosen to fund a horror film for this outing. What
we get in turn is not so much a scare-you-out-of-your-pants-a-minute
flick, but a thought-provoking character study between two clashing
cultures, religions, and beliefs.
the final result of the Hollywood system infiltrating Asian cinema
is never so apparent than in Double Vision (aka Shuang
Tong), a slick, stylish, and technically sound feature that
presents us the religion and mysticism of Asian beliefs, yet creates
a fast-paced, action-packed atmosphere worthy of any David Fincher
film. Yet, lost in the quick-cut editing is the true essence of
the film – fear. No feeling of dread, no prickly
hairs at the back of your neck, not even a discussion-worthy resolution.
Perhaps it is not the intention of the filmmaker to astound or creep
out viewers, but whatever result he was looking for, one doesn’t
find it here. Instead, what we do get is a hodgepodge of several
movie ideas rolled into one - a package that’s a little hard
all your years in the FBI, you have never encountered a demon before?”
Chairman of a major chemical corporation is found dead in a high-rise
building; upon investigation of the body, he is believed to have
drowned in icy water - in his 17th-floor office. A beautiful woman
calls the fire department for help as her apartment is engulfed
in flames. In response, she is found dead on the floor, showing
all the physical signs of someone who has burned to death, but there
are no apparent signs of a fire at her apartment. And a foreign
priest is viciously murdered and mutilated in the bedroom of his
church. Upon his belly, a strange Taoist marking is found.
occurrences have nothing in common except two things – the
victims were all involved in something immoral, and they were all
found with a strange mould fungus in their thalamus, the nerve center
of the brain.
into this unusual situation are two even more unusual allies. Huang
Huo Tu (Tony Leung) is a cop who works for the foreign affairs department
of the police force. His life is falling apart. His wife is divorcing
him. His daughter can no longer speak after a harrowing hostage-situation
brought about by circumstances of her father speaking out against
corruption in the police force. And to make things worse, he’s
deemed a total loser by his colleagues. However, given his extensive
knowledge of the English language, he is assigned to partner with
American FBI Agent Kevin Richter (David Morse) to get to the bottom
of things - forensically, that is. Immediately, the two find themselves
in a highly unusual predicament.
the initial friction with the local police department, Richter requests
to see the crime scene of the dead priest. There he discovers a
hollowed-out pellet embedded in the air-conditioning unit. As the
pellet is analyzed, they discover the same mould found in the victim’s
brains has been bored into the pellet, causing it to dissipate into
the victims’ bodies through the air-conditioning units.
the two investigate further, they seek the help of a social anthropologist
to identify the Taoist marking found on the dead priest’s
body. It is revealed to be the symbol of the True Sage Temple, a
recently discovered ancient temple in China. Found with it are several
stone carvings and symbols that don’t seem to make sense,
even when translated to modern Chinese characters. The doctor explains
to the duo that in Taoism, these particular carvings are held to
be the key to seeing into the past and the future.
night, while fidgeting with the said markings, Huo Tu figures out
a way to make sense of the riddle before him. Using the diagrams,
he is able to find the names of the first three victims, and partially
predict the name of the fourth victim. But in a city with hundreds
of thousands of people, that might take a while.
further complicate matters, the samples of the mould sent to the
FBI HQ leave them as baffled as the Hong Kong Police Force. The
mould isn’t actually mould at all, but a bug-born fungus that
attaches itself to a person’s brain, causing them to hallucinate,
make them feel they were drowning or being consumed by fire. With
this revelation, they are more baffled than ever.
a dark van travels down a road and a traffic incident goes awry,
causing two murders. As the police investigate, they discover a
body in the back, with its heart torn out, and a Taoist talisman
embedded in the wound. This leads Huo Tu to realize that indeed
something sinister is behind all this mayhem, a theory that Richter
by his beliefs, Huo Tu visits the good anthropologist once again,
this time armed with more detailed crime-scene photos. The doctor
realizes then that the culprit wants to attain immortality. It is
said that there are five stages of hell in Taoism: Frigid Hell,
Fire Hell, Disembowelment Hell, Heart-Extracting Hell, and Tongue-Removal
Hell. Once a person passes through these stages, he will attain
immortality in the sixth stage.
also tells of an ancient legend about a warrior who attempted to
achieve immortality by killing off "half-humans"
– morally corrupt beings who are neither fully human nor ghost.
The legend states that the warrior had double pupils that enabled
him to see for miles in the day, and identify ghosts at night; and
that whoever attempts to gain immortality in this way must be gravely
ill, for only in grave illness can one achieve real awakening.
Huo Tu and Richter continue their investigation, they trace the
van the heart-extraction victim was found in to a once major hi-tech
company owned by two highly educated individuals who at some point
got caught up in religion and became so fanatical they shipped an
entire temple in piece by piece from mainland China.
the police proceed to raid the location of the temple situated at
the top floor of a metropolitan building, a fight breaks out, causing
massive casualties both from the police force and members of the
cult. Investigating their temple, they discover a young girl hidden
beneath the ground. Appearing sickly and barely breathing, they
find a wound on her stomach, and immediately call an ambulance to
get her to a hospital.
there, the police inform Huo Tu that one of the leaders of the True
Sage Cult has confessed to the murders, and that the girl was sick
to begin with. She is suffering from a benign brain tumor, deemed
inoperable, and the wound on her stomach has been used to cultivate
a bug-born fungus. All fingers point to the True Sage Cult, and
the case is declared closed.
just when things seem to be at a resolution, the fifth and final
victim surfaces, and this is when things get very confusing. Who
is the little girl in the temple? What happens now that the five
stages of hell have been passed? What follows will definitely throw
you for a loop and make you say “Wha?”
technically flawless and superbly acted, Double Vision
falls short on many accounts. Firstly, the plot really isn’t
that concrete; throwing too many scientific, mystic, and philosophic
beliefs into the mix, it turns out to be a hodgepodge of ideas.
there really isn’t a resolution at the end. Maybe one may
theorize about the ending, but I won’t present my own theory
there was no consistency in the motives of the victims. Some were
voluntary, some were chosen, some happened by accident. It’s
very difficult to establish a point of believability with the plot
there were just too many unnecessary scenes in the movie
that if taken out, would’ve moved the story along better.
said that, the film does have its share of positive points.
It’s very well made. The musical score is haunting. The director
knows just what to get out of his actors without them going overboard.
And it’s great to look at: clean, constructed, and cool. Perhaps
it’s these qualities that make it just like any other Hollywood
film, therefore losing its Asian edge.
in all, Double Vision succeeds in giving us another glimpse
at Asian filmmaking. If they could find a way to incorporate this
newfound sleek look with unadulterated edge that Asian movies have
become known for, then that would be awesome!
Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 8/10
Super-Confusing Endings: you wha-???/10
Unconvincing Dismemberments: chop!-thump!-aaargh!/10
Scary Taoist Temples: 1
Double Vision: you need bifocals, mate ;-)
Litres of Tomato Ketchup: a veritable convoy of Taiwanese tankers
of the stuff
Films in a Similar Style: Inner Senses,
The Eye, Another
Heaven, X Files (?! strange but true)
You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600]
Wallpaper credit: Larry D. Burns, 2003
Snowblood Apple Filmographies
- official Flash site, with loads of beautiful images, a streaming
trailer, movie clips, synopsis, cast/crew info, e-cards, wallpapers
and screensavers - pretty darn comprehensive!
- you can download one of those trailers here by right-clicking
- LoveHKFilm's take on the film, with technical details and notes
- the kind of quality we have all come to expect from Sancho - great
images, great review [French only]
- a very long and indepth review, much after the same tone as ours
- KFC Cinema. Need I say more?
- Chinese page dedicated to the movie, with lots of smart-looking
press photos and posters for download [Chinese only]
- a positive review of the movie
- and a not-quite-so-positive one
- very well-written and open-minded opinion of the movie
- Asian Film Web's review, with some nice pictures but an very nice
(and unfortunately unclickable) poster