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Devil Face Angel Heart
"You're much better than that Ekin guy."

Daniel Wu and Gigi Lai tub it in Devil Face Angel Heart
Year: 2002  
Director: Billy Chung Siu-Hung  
Producer: Wong Jing  
Cast: Daniel Wu (Ng Yin-Cho), Gigi Lai Chi, Stephen Fung Tak-Lun, Lam Suet, David Lee Wai-Seung, Conroy Chan Chi-Chung, Philip Keung Ho-Man, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Kelly Lin, Joe Lee Yiu-Ming
The Skinny: Sometimes laughably lurid, this clichéd crime thriller has enough atmosphere and nods to the genre to make it watchable. This is trash for those who dig the stuff.
by Kozo:

     Daniel Wu notches another flick in his personal quest to appear in more films than any actor EVER. The fifth Daniel Wu film this year, Devil Face Angel Heart is a collection of ugly crime genre clichés by underrated director Billy Chung. The end result is far from new or original, but fans of Hong Kong crime fiction might find this enjoyable.
     Wu stars as Lon, a disfigured killer who works with his brother Kwan (Lam Suet). They work for evil gang leader Dragon (Keung Ho-Man), but are treated poorly. Lon, in particular, receives heaps of derision thanks to his hideous form. Thankfully, Dragon's abused moll Wendy (Gigi Lai) takes a shine to him. She's brutually tortured and raped by Dragon nightly, and she finds some solace in Lon's gentle nature. Lon decides to off Dragon for her, which is no big deal because Dragon was going to kill Lon and Kwan anyway to avoid having to pay them.
     Meanwhile, hot young cops Kent (Stephen Fung) and Dicky (Sam Lee) are on the trail of some nameless gangster played by ubiquitous bit player Joe Lee Yiu-Ming. He gets offed right away by Lon, which puts the pair of Gen-X cops on his tail. They hope to find Lon, but Dragon wants them both dead, so he sends Lon in to kill them. So here's the scorecard: Lon wants to off Dragon; Wendy wants to off Dragon; Dragon wants to kill Lon, Kwan, Kent and Dicky; Kent and Dicky want to find Lon; and Dragon's second-in-command Jimmy (Conroy Chan) has something up his sleeve, too. Whew.
     Surprisingly enough, the plot doesn't wear itself thin from too many threads. From minute one it's Daniel Wu's show and everyone else is left by the wayside. He carries the film effectively enough, staying well within his proven dramatic range. More surprising is the fact that Stephen Fung has little more than a glorified cameo appearance, and Sam Lee probably was on the film set for only a day. Rising star Kelly Lin has the least interesting role in the film. She has two scenes as Kent's girlfriend, and does little more than show up 70 minutes into the film (which clocks in at 87 minutes) and act concerned. Bizarre.
    At least Gigi Lai gets lots of screentime. Her role here is a bit meatier than her usual flower vase/abused scenery parts, but she doesn't do much for women's rights. In fact, the whole film has a rather unpleasant streak of misogyny, though the filmmakers make sure to point out that absolutely no one can be trusted. That's right: no one. Lon's journey is fraught with backstabbing and betrayal, but none of it is very surprising or original. Eventually, Lon is reborn as a suave lady killer out for revenge, but the transformation isn't a revelation. It's more like a foregone conclusion.
     To his credit, director Billy Chung seems to revel in the film's obvious pulp roots, spending lots of time on numerous lurid close-ups of Gigi Lai's lips, thighs and other assorted body parts. Likewise, Daniel Wu's masculine form is treated with the respect usually given to Calvin Klein underwear models. People walk in slow motion, dialogue is kept to a minimum, and undue screen time is spent on cigarette smoke. None of it really means anything; it's just there to serve the trashy film noir atmosphere. With all that in mind the film works, though it's not a journey that everyone should take. Fans of Daniel Wu and Gigi Lai will be happy with all the fan service, and there's enough disturbing violence to please the red meat crowd.
     But wait, there's also laughs. Devil Face Angel Heart is also home to some of the best subtitled howlers of the year, as well as plot points that would make great midnight movie fodder. Lon's quest for revenge earns him a sex-sifu, who teaches him how to sexually enchant any woman he wishes. The wacky subtitles are worse. When a soulful tale of betrayal is related, the response is subtitled as "A goddam freaky bitch!"
     Such inappropriate laughers are welcome, since the film probably wouldn't work as a straight-faced crime drama. Devil Face Angel Heart has a plot that's like Crying Freeman crossed with The Elephant Man, which is a combination that's far from pathos-inducing. However, the genre trappings are familiar and the atmosphere suitably sweaty. Those who enjoy trashy midnight cinema might find some satisfaction here. (Kozo 2002)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Laser
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language
Dolby Digital Mono
Removable Chinese and English Subtitles

image courtesy of Mei Ah Entertainment

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