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Day Off
Year: 2001 "The size of my weapon means nothing!"
Nick Cheung gets his gun out
Director: Raymond Leung Pun-Hei
Cast: Nick Cheung Ka-Fai, Yoyo Lam Ho-Yee, Sherming Yiu Lok-Yi, Peter Ngor Chi-Kwan
The Skinny: Hitman drama/indie flick which features an uncommon performance from Nick Cheung, and some creative cinematography and camerawork. While overstuffed, there is some interesting content here. Sadly, the unknown actors stink like mad.
by Kozo:
     Nick Cheung gets serious in this low-budget 2001 hitman drama. He plays Lok, an ace hitman who's suffering from the onset of glaucoma. If that's not enough, he also pines for his lost love Catherine, cries for his dead friend Tomato, suffers angst over his estrangement from his father, and other assorted hitman-type sorrow. Lok also has a cute dog and a regular prostitute (Sherming Yiu) who visits him. And, to top off his miseries, he's played by Nick Cheung.
     Things get weird when Lok meets Snow (Yoyo Lam), a convenience store clerk with an unnamed terminal disease. She's one of those girls with an abnormally positive outlook, but that's because her life is in the pits. She uses what time she has to generally make those around her happier. This intrigues Lok, who alters his usual patterns to stay near her. However, his life as a hitman takes a bad turn when he makes a crucial error. He seeks help from his agent Tony, but in doing so discovers that pieces of his life have been kept from him. Many of the things he was accustomed to doing over the years turn out to be misconceptions, or worse, straight-out lies. He decides he wants to find some redemption, but it may be too late.
     Director-writer-producer Raymond Leung was responsible for the underrated 1996 drama Scarred Memory. However, unlike Scarred Memory, his performers are not Simon Yam and Veronica Yip. Nick Cheung turns in an admirable performance, considering the fact that he doesn't really look like your typical hitman. None of his usual funnyman stuff is in effect here, and the change is a welcome one. And, Sherming Yiu lends some surprising weight to her small part.
     Still, all performers are absolutely destroyed by the overdone histrionics of Yoyo Lam, who overacts with abandon. Snow is supposed to be one of those sexy-cute types who's charming but sorrowful, but Yoyo Lam's performance as her is just plain awful. Aside from being poorly dubbed, she also overdoes the cute act to a maddening degree. And since Snow is such a pivotal character, the film can only suffer.
     This isn't to say that the film would be perfect had Snow been cast better. Day Off is also tremendously overstuffed, and features plot devices and narration that even Wong Kar-Wai couldn't sell. Director Leung salvages things with effective handheld camerawork and good cinematography, as well as a few terrific plot twists which seem right at home in his chosen genre. There is much here that works, and considering the budget, Leung did a commendable job. For a low budget piece, there's some creative stuff here.
     At the same time, there are too many cloying details, and the terminal disease subplot has been done to death in practically every Hong Kong genre imaginable. And, most egregious of all, nearly every actor not named Nick Cheung or Sherming Yiu is sublimely bad. There is the occasional standout (cinematographer Peter Ngor has an over-the-top, but effective cameo), but the acting from the supporting players is predominantly awful. With a good producer and a bigger budget, Raymond Leung might be able to turn out something special. As it is, Day Off is surprisingly effective, though only some of the time. (Kozo 2002)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Winson Entertainment
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
image courtesy of Winson Entertainment Distribution, Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen