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Nessun Dorma

New York, New York

Janice Man in Nessun Dorma.

Chinese: 兇手還未睡
Year: 2016  
Director: Herman Yau Lai-To
Producer: Paco Wong, Ren Yue, Stanley Tong Man-Hong
Writer: Erica Li Man, Zendoric
Cast:

Janice Man, Andy Hui Chi-On, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Candace Yu On-On, Wilfred Lau Ho-Lung, Jacky Cai, Phat Chan, Tarah Chan, Brian Siswojo, Au Hin-Wai, Winston Yeh

The Skinny:

Muddled thriller from Herman Yau has an overstuffed plot and never realizes its potential. An OK potboiler that capsizes when it tries for greater meaning or significance. Janice Man’s performance is daring by Hong Kong standards, which means it’s basically PG-13.

 
Review
by Kozo:
Adapted from a popular novel, Nessun Dorma has potent source material, but the film's execution is ineffective and ill-advised. Herman Yau directs this dark thriller about Jasmine Tsang (Janice Man), who’s engaged to marry the rich and eligible Vincent Lee (Gordon Lam). However, one evening Jasmine is sedated and kidnapped, and wakes up naked and tied to a bed in a storage container. Her masked abductor is mum on his plans, leaving Jasmine to freak out while wondering why this happened. Flash back to days before and we learn that not everything in Jasmine and Vincent's world was on the up-and-up. Jasmine was having an affair with math whiz Fong Mo-Chit (Andy Hui)while Vincent was frequently unfaithful and, in his private life, far from a nice guy. Naturally all this stuff is related and peeling back the story reveals layers of darkness and bad karma. Will Jasmine ever get out of her predicament or will the film reveal that her predicament is justified? And will the audience agree or care?

The title of the film is drawn from "Nessun dorma", the widely-heard and exceptionally popular aria from Giacomo Puccini’s 1926 opera Turandot. At one point, Jasmine and Vincent actually take in a performance, and frequent parallels are drawn between both works. However, the screenplay is too ambitious and explicit in how it alludes to the opera. The comparison between Jasmine and the opera's title character Princess Turandot feels especially ill-fitting; Janice Man admirably tackles the role’s dramatic and physical demands (i.e., partial nudity, bound captivity), but Jasmine never really comes into her own. She’s always reactive rather than proactive, and makes questionable decisions that are never justified. Ultimately, her character arc is overshadowed by the story's many red herrings and plot twists. Is Nessun Dorma about its many themes, or about how this person is really that person and how this guy did that thing that made this other person do that thing? The film's mystery is resolved neatly enough, but thematically it's overstuffed and a bit of a mess.

Unfortunately, Herman Yau may not be the right director for the film. His handling is too straightforward and doesn't always capitalize on the story's inherent tension. During Jasmine's captivity, the film takes on a suspenseful edge but otherwise Yau resorts to laughable shock scares and droning dialogue scenes. The film's style and pace don't reflect Jasmine's situation, and the suspense and mystery are explained rather than felt. Yau's direction isn't stylish or expressionistic enough, and his talent for dark satirical humor is rarely employed. The script does touch on some social issues, which are also common to Yau's works, but despite being thoughtful these details are simply more on top of an already overburdened pile. Acting is serviceable, though the cast has uniformly been better elsewhere. Overall, Nessun Dorma might have been more successful as a glossier and more commercial suspense thriller – or the filmmakers could have gone full-on art movie if that was their preference. As is, it's stuck in the middle, which isn't the best place to be. (Kozo 12/2016)

 
 
   
 
 
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