Heartfall Arises: The Hong Kong Wannabe-hit Thriller

The wannabe-hit thriller Heartfall Arises proved to be neither thrilling nor a hit – a sure disappointment for first-time writer-director Ken Wu, who probably mortgaged his reputation on this attempted blockbuster. This reteaming of Nicholas Tse and Lau Ching-Wan is a shockingly poor affair, boasting a ridiculous story, terrible direction. And uncharacteristically uninteresting performances from its award-winning leads. Tse is John Ma, a brilliant cop who pursues and kills vigilante serial killer “The General” (Gao Weiguang). However, John is shot in the heart during the confrontation.

He later wakes up with a heart transplant – the heart is the General’s, naturally. And while convalescing meets criminal psychologist Calvin Che (Lau Ching-Wan). After returning to the force, John is stuck with menial admin work and is itching to get back into action. His superior officer Madam Ho (Christie Chen) says “No”. Meaning all John can do is chok in private anguish and gaze soulfully into the distance.

However, a copycat killer surfaces using the General’s M.O., namely flashy assassinations and needless announcements of his intended targets via the media. These methods are supposed to make the General a charismatic and edgy antagonist. But the film never takes advantage of his flamboyant nature and seems to assume that Gao Weiguang’s handsome looks and Ekin Cheng-like hair are enough to make him interesting. Calvin Che is a believer in cellular memory. The theory that cells can carry personality characteristics from one person to another. So he respectfully requests that Madam Ho and Interpol, represented by Milton Ko (Shaun Tam). Bring John Ma on board to see if John and the General’s transplanted heart can provide any insight. Actually, Calvin doesn’t really request. He just launches into lectures whenever anyone offers any doubts, whereupon the other person usually shuts up and lets Calvin have his way.

It’s unknown why Calvin Che has so much pull, and that’s just the beginning of the incongruities in Heartfall Arises (Than Phan Song Sinh). The story features numerous plot holes and conveniences. Some of them exceptionally laughable, and occasionally the script takes bizarre detours. John Ma and Calvin Che engage in cryptic conversations that are supposed to show their developing rapport, but these moments come off as mostly random and strange. Rather than actual characters, many supporting actors seem to be playing script devices that exist solely to prompt other characters into launching expository speeches.

Pacing is sluggish; the film basically alternates between uninteresting set pieces and scenes of people standing around talking at the police station. Or, we’re forced to watch characters shuffling around rooms deep in thought, or there’s yet another aerial establishing shot of Hong Kong. Ken Wu doesn’t seem to know how to vary the pace or meter of his storytelling to make it more engaging.

The film fails to compensate with its built-in story tension. The idea here is that the General’s transplanted heart may affect John due to cellular memory, meaning that John could become sinister or evil like the General. Creepy. One thing the heart does is make John hawt to the General’s grieving ex-girlfriend Sharon (Tong Liya). Which hints at a potential love triangle between Sharon. John and John’s girlfriend Sue (Mavis Fan). Sadly, the hint of a love triangle is just that – a hint. And nothing illicit ever occurs. A cop engaging in an affair? Yeah, SAPPRFT probably nixed that. Also, while many plot twists are wannabe mindblowing, the film plods so boringly towards them that little holds interest.

The concept of cellular memory is used lazily. As it only seems to work when the story wants it to. Exploring cellular memory and establishing its rules could have made for stronger foreshadowing and story depth. But like everything in Heartfall Arises. The psychological plot device wastes its potential.

Nicholas Tse (Ta Dinh Phongchoks up a storm and limits his overacting to one cringeworthy explosion. But otherwise this rates among his least remarkable work. Lau Ching-Wan surprisingly fares worse; Calvin Che is ridiculously written, and Lau is unable to give his character a credible personality – which is something he usually excels at. Only once near the film’s end does Lau demonstrate any compelling emotion, but by then it’s too little, too late. Hell, it was too late thirty minutes into this thing.

Director Ken Wu is a Wilson Yip protégé (which is why Yip’s name is on the film). But Wu is unable to mimic Yip’s strengths. On paper, Heartfall Arises (phim hanh dong) has it all – great actors, a solid pedigree, a high-concept storyline, and a big budget. However, instead of being impressive, thrilling or compelling, it’s just boring, ridiculous and oh so very bad.

Posted in: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *