Filmmakers Johnnie To and Law Wing-cheong, who worked with each other on 2005’s awesome Hong Kong crime thriller Election, have reteamed on Punished (Bou ying), another thriller directed by Law and produced by To. The DVD, soon to be released by Indomina, presents the Hong Kong thriller that Alex previously reviewed in July during his coverage of the 2011 New York Asian Film Festival.
Shady business mogul Wong Ho-Chiu (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) has a troubled relationship with his cocaine-addicted party girl daughter, Daisy (Janice Man), and arrogantly believes he can control her with the same strong-arm tactics that he uses when he conducts his business. Even when he receives a video of Daisy kidnapped Wong believes that he can control the situation (in fact, he suspects Daisy has “kidnapped” herself for the ransom money). When he proves totally inept in handling the situation, Wong’s bodyguard, Chor (Richie Ren), takes control. Chor, who has parenting issues of his own, proceeds to send Wong videos of himself killing all those involved in the kidnapping — although both Wong and Chor are surprised when they discover the extent of the involvement among their closest associates.
The actual action doesn’t actually start until a half hour into the film, which is a bit too late for a film that’s only 90 minutes long to get going. From that point on, Punished can’t decide if it’s an action film or a drama. Every time it seems Chor is going to get in an intense action scene with one of the men responsible for Daisy’s kidnapping the action is over far too quickly. That means the film is much more of a mystery thriller than the action film the DVD cover and tagline (“First the Ransom. Then the Payback.”) seems to imply. The trailer doesn’t help with this misconception either because it packs glimpses of just about every action scene into the trailer. It confuses me because the mystery of Chor figuring out who is ultimately behind Daisy’s kidnapping and her ultimate fate is compelling, so why try to sell the film otherwise? Still, the result is an uneven mix between a drama of a father feeling like he failed his daughter and a revenge thriller, which end up making an awkward fit together.
The DVD is very light on features, as you might expect. The “Inside Look” and “Directing the Cast” features are both two minutes long, and the “Behind the Scenes” photo gallery slide show is less than a minute. When all the other features are not much longer than the trailer (the only other feature), you’re not getting a lot to enjoy if you want to learn more about the film’s production.
Punished is set for DVD, digital download, and VOD release on January 24, and, if you’re into Hong Kong crime thrillers you’ll undoubtedly enjoy it. Despite Anthony Wong’s involvement, however, don’t expect another Infernal Affairs or another Election despite a reteaming of the same filmmakers. Nonetheless, it offers more than the average American direct-to-DVD movie.
Movie Rating: An uneven mix of genres that would likely have worked better if it settled on one (5/10)
DVD Rating: You’ll learn more about this movie on its IMDb page than from its features (2/10)