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Trivisa


Richie Ren (center, seated) is one the three key criminals of Trivisa.
Chinese: 樹大招風
Year: 2016  
Director: Frank Hui, Jevons Au, Vicky Wong
  Producer: Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Yau Nai-Hoi
  Writer: Loong Man-Hong, Thomas Ng, Mak Tin-Shu
  Action:

Yick Tin-Hung, Jack Wong Wai-Leung

Cast:

Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Richie Ren, Jordan Chan Siu-Chun, Philip Keung Ho-Man, Lam Suet, Tommy Wong Kwong-Leung, Wan Yeung-Ming, Stephen Au Kam-Tong, Wong Wah-Ho, Xiong Xin-Xin, Yueh Hua, Ben Yuen Foo-Wah, Ng Chi-Hung

The Skinny: Stellar Milkyway Image crime film pushing new talent and its trademark quality and style of filmmaking. Light on action but rich with strong characters and spot-on performances. Producer Johnnie To should be proud.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Trivisa hits the Hong Kong Cinema sweet spot like few recent films have. Produced by Johnnie To and Yau Nai-Hoi, and helmed by three young directors from the Milkyway Image stable, Trivisa resembles To's Life without Principle with its fusion of Hong Kong socio-political commentary and crime thriller tropes Ė though straight genre junkies will probably like it more. Taking place in 1997, the film follows three notorious robbers, each based on real Hong Kong criminals, who try to change due to the impending Handover only to meet semi-ironic fates. There's an obvious metaphor present for Hong Kongers who faced the Handover, or those currently feeling unease with the mainland-Hong Kong divide, and there may even be a nifty parallel to Hong Kong filmmaking. After years of unchecked prosperity, Hong Kong Cinema's decline and the shift to the China market have forced local filmmakers to compromise or quit Ė very similar to the choices faced by Trivisa's protagonists. One could liken certain industry figures to robbers too, given the stuff they've tried to pull. A ninety-minute movie split onto two laserdiscs Ė who remembers that? But I digress.

Trivisa consists of three story strands, each following a different protagonist and helmed by a different director. Jevons Au (one of the filmmakers behind the award-winning Ten Years) directs the thread focusing on Yip Kwok-Foon (Richie Ren), an AK-47-wielding badass who's notorious for splashy, violent robberies. Seeing the writing on the wall (lowered payouts, mainland interference), Yip and his gang switch to electronics smuggling, but have a hard time adjusting to the lack of action, not to mention the need to kowtow to arrogant mainlanders. Before long, Yip's anger at being a "little man" in this brave new criminal world reaches a boiling point. Meanwhile, director Frank Hui follows Kwai Ching-Hung (Gordon Lam), a thief who stays under the radar by performing smaller robberies, and whose obsessive attention to detail hints at his psychopathy. Hung temporarily resides with former criminal colleague Fai (Keung Ho-Man), who's now gone straight and has a family. However, unbeknownst to Fai, Hung is casing a nearby jewelry store and has already hired a couple of mainlanders as henchmen.

Finally, director Vicky Wong handles the story of Cheuk Tze-Keung (Jordan Chan), a flamboyant criminal who kidnaps high-profile targets and ransoms them for millions. Cheuk is looking for a bigger score that'll trump his previous exploits, and mainland jobs don't stir his juices. However, there's an underworld rumor going around that Yip, Cheuk and Kwai were seen together, and are currently planning a major score. The source of the rumor is initially unknown, and while Kwai and Yip seem cool to the idea, Cheuk is convinced that this is the grand score that he's looking for. While Cheuk tries to contact both Yip and Kwai, their respective situations begin to decay. Yip encounters more problems with his smuggling business and begins to long for the power he once felt with an AK-47 in his hands. Kwai's discontent is more subtle, as his exacting plans are stymied and he gradually finds himself in an uncomfortable place with his comrades and profession. As time passes and the menís patience erodes, Cheuk Tze-Keung's dream criminal team-up looks to become a stronger reality.

Though each of Trivisaís narrative threads is about a man facing a turning point, the stories themselves are quite different. The Yip Kwok-Foon strand features the most active story and fully-realized character arc, about a man who finds himself stifled by change, and Richie Ren smolders in the role. The story of Kwai Ching-Hung is more of a cerebral character portrait, with strong atmosphere and psychological nuance that begets compelling suspense. The acting may be the best here; Gordon Lam is genuinely frightening as the could-be psychopathic Kwai, and Keung Ho-Man offers another one of his excellent supporting turns as Kwai's former comrade-in-arms. The Cheuk Tze-Keung strand is funnier and more arch, and Jordan Chan's performance is entertainingly over-the-top to match. However, Cheukís story functions more as a means of bringing together the three robbers, and doesn't achieve any narrative or character depth. Unlike with Kwai or Yip, we never really see into Cheuk's psyche and he remains only an amusing, occasionally threatening cartoon.

Still, the combination of all three narratives smooths over the faults of Cheukís storyline, and the final work serves as a textbook representation of the Milkyway Image house style. Storytelling is exacting and predominantly visual; the characters are built through acting and action rather than dialogue or exposition. Irony is abundant in the filmís overarching narrative as well in smaller, humorously absurd moments. Also, the story makes effective use of the 1997 Hong Kong Handover. Trivisa opens and closes with overt references to the event, and while the film doesnít comment remarkably on it (current non-mainland commentary on the Handover is largely predictable in its opinion), it works superbly as a narrative framework for its examination of men facing rapid, uncomfortable change. Action is on the light side, however, and the film lacks a large climax that sees the characters working together Ė which isnít a real fault, though itís reasonable that some audiences might see it as one given the filmís driving storyline. So be forewarned: If you expect Trivisa to be a Milkyway Image film with a big blowout finale, please donít.

Trivisa also doesnít offer a very strong message. Given how events play out, it seems the characters are damned if they do and damned if they donít Ė a reading thatís reasonable thematically but also well-worn and expected in this era of rising PRC negativity. Those looking for a film to say something new and surprising wonít find it here, but in nearly every other way Trivisa is a stellar Hong Kong film. Itís relatively early and its competition isnít great, but the film is thus far one of the yearís best and a sterling flag bearer for the future of the Milkyway Image brand. Trivisa carries on the tradition of the Hong Kong crime film and offers hope that producer Yau Nai-Hoi and directors Frank Hui, Jevons Au and Vicky Wong can keep the companyís genre film legacy intact even if Messrs. Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai tire of guys with guns and decide to make romantic comedies exclusively. Whether or not that actually happens, fanboys should fear not Ė Milkyway Image seems to be in good hands. (Kozo, 8/2016)

 

Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
2-Disc Special Edition
Panorama (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital EX
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

   
 
 
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