Night Corridor

Night Corridor

Rating: 7/10
Year: 2003
Genre: Suspense
Director: Julian Lee
Cast: Daniel Wu, Wei Ying-hung, Eddy Ko

Unlike the US or Europe, the definition of independent film in Hong Kong is quite narrow. Not only does it mean a lack of entertainment value, the absence of professional actors also keeps the general audience away. That may explain why indie is never a popular form of cinema in Hong Kong. However, filmmaker/writer Julian Lee tried to prove that we are wrong by making an independent film that is entertaining and also features glamorous stars, and that is Night Corridor.

Adapted from Julian Lee's novel, the story focuses on Sam's (Daniel Wu) investigation of his brother's death. He doesn't know that the more he is involved, the more he is stepping into an evil trap of no return. Frankly speaking, I haven't read Lee's original novel before, so there is not much I could tell about the difference between the two versions. Judging from the film itself, it contains a fruitful (perhaps little perplexed) plot that is quite engaging. A variety of elements are placed into the script, from suspense to horror, and from homosexual implication to a post-colonial perspective, Lee's story never runs out of interesting ideas and is without doubt more complicated and introspective than most of the mainstream movies coming out recently. While the execution of the director is not flawless, and the structure of the story is also said to be quite confusing, it nevertheless displays the unusual ambition of the director, and how he was trying to do something different.

Since I was still baffled after the first viewing and couldn't formulate a rational interpretation to deciphrer the content satisfactorily yet, a great part of this brief review would be focused on the technical aspects (A more detailed review on the story will be coming soon). Being labelled an independent film didn't seem to deteriorate the quality of the production at all. Julian Lee's insistence on using 35mm instead of digital video format was definitely a wise decision. With a peculiar and exotic visual setting that relies heavily on the use of cold and dark colors, 35mm film, that is much more delicate and reacts to lights way more sensitive than digital video, seems to be an inevitable choice. Talking about the cinematography, the filmmaker is probably influenced by European art a lot. Apart from the display of the Western paintings, most of the scenes are constructed in a way that keeps you wonder: Is this the same place we are living in?" The stylistic use of lighting and shadow also seems to be a tribute to some Western silent films.

Daniel Wu is few of the young actors in Hong Kong who is really talented and pays respect to his profession as an actor. What he has accomplished so far makes you believe that he actually loves what he is doing, which is different from a great number of new actors in Hong Kong who merely treat movie/or are forced by their management companies to treat movie as a kind of job or merchandise to promote themselves as an idol. Wu's decision of taking up the producer role further affirms us his passion for films. As the actor as well as the producer, Wu's depiction is refreshing. His character Sam (the Chinese name seems to carry double meaning as the pronounciation of Yuen Sam could also mean "the Heart of the Ape" -> "Purified Heart") is not an easy role to handle, but Wu's portrayal proves that he has really spent time to study the mind and the emotion of the character. Wu's breakthrough performance absolutely deserves more recognitions. Veteran actors Wei Ying-hung, Eddy Ko and Gu feng are never disappointing as usual.

While Night Corridor is not a flawless work both in terms of the aesthetic and narrative structures, it is still highly recommended. It is because we are tired of nonsensical comedies! We are tired of pop singer-turned actors! I really hope this film would act as a catalyst to trigger a new wave of independent cinema for us!

Cool guy(s) - Daniel Wu

Reviewed by: Kantorates