Port Of Call(2016)
- RatedR21 /GenreCrime
Hong Kong thriller ‘Port of Call’ is not for the faint-hearted.
Based on a true story of a shocking murder and dismemberment case back in 2008, this is largely an investigation into what might have caused the tragedy to happen, at the same time offering a heartfelt social commentary on the disaffected youths of today.
Writer-director Phillip Yung does not shy away from the most grisly scenes and has crafted an atmospheric police procedural drama using several intercutting of flashback scenes that show us the backstories of the three main characters.
Wang Kamei (played by newcomer Jessie Li in her acting debut) has moved from Dongguan, China to join her mother and sister in search of a better life in Hong Kong. Largely neglected by her mother and desperate to become financially independent, she ends up becoming a teenage prostitute.
Ting Chi-Chung (played by another newcomer Michael Ning), a truck driver and gang member who also had tough breaks in life, had just been brutally dumped by a woman he loves. Ting finds Jiamei online and they become friends. That is, until the fateful day when they finally arranged to meet.
In the present timeline, Inspector Chong Sir (Aaron Kwok) who handles the case doesn’t want to drop the investigation despite the murderer having already owned up and surrender himself. He delves deeper into the lives and stories of Kamei and Ting, wanting to unveil the motivation behind the crime.
AARON KWOK ACTING MASTERCLASS
Aaron Kwok, with his salt-and-pepper hair and beard, is almost unrecognisable as a Heavenly King. This is not the first time he has played the role of a persevering detective, as we have seen him in ‘The Detective’ movies.
However, his transformation into an older jaded character in ‘Port Of Call’ is much more grounded, sans any action scenes or wisecracks, making him more real and human.
Through the process of the investigation, Chong is able to relate emotionally to Kamei’s love for her estranged father back in China, which mirrors his own relationship with his young daughter, currently staying with his divorced wife.
As dark and horrifying as this tale can be, Kwok’s portrayal of the investigator actually brought out much needed warmth and hope, and he deservedly earn another Golden Horse Best Actor nomination, proving once again that he can be a serious character actor.
EXCELLENT SUPPORTING CAST
Li is the big breakthrough star of the film, not only does the first time film actress commit fully to emotionally-charged love scenes, she brings real sadness and anguish to the character as we can empathise with what Kamei is going through.
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress as well as Best Newcomer together with her co-star Michael Ning, it’s a huge pity that Li did not win, but it is almost certain that the path has been paved for her for more solid acting offers to come.
Ning, a veteran stage actor in his big screen debut, is chillingly effective in his almost deadpan delivery, his resemblance to the real-life murderer just adds to the role.
In the prison cell scenes where he and Kwok are together, Ning almost stole the thunder from the two-time Best Actor winner, channelling his character’s volatile temperament in a flash.
Elaine Jin who plays Kamei’s mother is also another major supporting character who adds to the emotional pathos and disconnection between mother and daughter, contributing to the inevitable tragedy.
In addition to the high calibre acting, the film is also elevated by the cinematography of Christopher Doyle, and sound designer Tu Du Chih.
When you throw out the narratives and drama of the film, the stirring images and sounds will remain etched in you, especially with the grislier scenes.
Category Three (equivalent of R21 rating in HK) genre fans of gore will certainly get more than what they bargain for, and director Phillip Yung, in his third foray into feature filmmaking, has proven with his most ambitious film to date that he’s a director to reckon with in Hong Kong's competitive cinema industry.
‘Port of Call’ opens 14 Jan 2016