would think Hong Kong would be tougher when it comes to criminal insanity
defenses, but Fan Kwok Sang still manages to beat the rap for killing his wife
by pleading temporarily nuts. His good luck continues when he is placed under
the care of the highly esteemed Dr. Chow Ming-kit, who cures him in three
years. Or does he? Chow will start to wonder when Fan gets involved with
another suspicious death in David Lee’s Insanity
which screens during this year’s Hong Kong Cinema at the San Francisco Film
trauma of losing his son essentially broke Fan’s grip on reality. Suffering
from extreme paranoid schizophrenia, he finally just snapped, defenestrating
his long suffering wife from their apartment window. Dr. Chow eventually pieced
together his fractured psyche and proscribed a full battery of anti-psychotics
to keep them glued in place. Being ever so progressive, Dr. Chow periodically
checks in with Fan. Usually that means dropping by the restaurant where Fan
works with his grossly under-appreciated fiancée, Shum Po-yee.
Fan accidentally kills a creepy homeless guy on the roof of his building, Dr.
Chow is his first call. Fearing the scandal of a supposedly cured patient committing
a homicide (justifiable or not), Chow encourages him to take flight. Oh by the
way, Fan just happened to mention he’d stopped taking his meds. As the cops
start swarming and his colleagues’ suspicions mount, Chow decides to cure Fan
once and for all, with special round-the-clock one-on-one immersion treatments.
Of course, there will be unforeseen complications to their marathon analysis
anyone who has seen a lot of psychological thrillers should be about twenty
minutes ahead of the script (co-written by Lee, Bullet Vanishes helmer Law Chi-leung, and uber-producer-director
Derek Yee). However, the first-rate work of Sean Lau Ching-wan as Fan still
makes it worth the price of admission. It is a remarkable performance, implying
much under vastly differing circumstances. Yet, he is always so tragically
human and sad. Mainland superstar Huang Xiaoming also stresses out pretty
impressively, but Nina Paw Hee-ching might out do both of them as Fan’s
unhinged mother-in-law. Plus, Michelle Wai adds some red hot nuttiness in a
memorable extended cameo as Mona, the patient who develops an unhealthy
attachment to Dr. Chow. Fortunately, Alex Fong is also on hand to keep things
real as Chow’s deputy-rival, Dr. Liu.
Even if you have a hunch where Insanity is going, it is still entertaining
to watch Lee and his cast revel in the conventions and trappings of the genre.
Chan Chi-ying duly cranks up the noir with his atmospheric cinematography, in
the Robert Burks tradition. At times it is almost shamelessly over the top, but
that is part of the fun. Recommended for fans of head-spinning head-shrinker
thrillers, Insanity screens this
Friday night (9/23) as part of the SFFS’s annual Hong Kong Cinema series.
Labels: HK Cinema at SFFS '16, Hong Kong Cinema, Huang Xiaoming, Michelle Wai, Psychological Thrillers, Sean Lau