Murder-mystery with too many wrong moves

The acting talents of Nicholas Tse (left) and Lau Ching Wan are wasted in Heartfall Arises.
The acting talents of Nicholas Tse (left) and Lau Ching Wan are wasted in Heartfall Arises.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / CRIME THRILLER

HEARTFALL ARISES (PG13)

102 minutes/Opens tomorrow/1.5/5 stars

The story: A year after detective John Ma (Nicholas Tse) shoots an elusive serial killer, that man appears to have come back from the dead, forcing the cop to team up with criminal psychologist Calvin Che (Lau Ching Wan) to nab the man once and for all.

Hong Kong writer-director Ng Ban Yu is so intent on making his bizarre Chinese chess motif fit with his murder-mystery here that he ends up with a script that is completely contrived.

There are murder victims whose names have the same Chinese characters as chess pieces and dialogues that make use of every cheesy pun you can possibly imagine involving the game (think wordplay with terms such as "re-match" and "duel").

Worse, the chess motif ends up serving no purpose whatsoever in driving the plot forward. It feels like it was written to make the story appear more intelligent; alas, it just slows things down.

Not like there is very much happening here anyway, what with the incessant, empty chatter among the characters.

For a crime thriller, there is too much pseudo-philosophising going on and not enough action - both Tse and Lau are wasted in roles where they stand around and throw up big terms with little substance at each other.

More is the pity, given how promising the premise had seemed at the start: A mystery killer leaves behind warnings that he will kill a group of high-profile executives by a certain time, which he actually manages to do.

Soon after the cops go after him, the film goes pear-shaped - the action veers completely off-track and, half an hour later, you forget why they are chasing him in the first place.

This one is a stalemate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2016, with the headline 'Murder-mystery with too many wrong moves'. Print Edition | Subscribe