“There is no such thing as an accident; it is fate misnamed.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
Accidents are just accidents. Or are they? At some point in our lives, we’ve either witnessed firsthand or been a part of an unfortunate accident. But what if someone in that oogling crowd was actually responsible for planning the calamity in order to cover up a murder? The Hong Kong import Accident takes on just such a premise and does it so well you may, if you may be compelled to scan the onlookers for a man who looks suspiciously unambiguous, sipping on a soda as he slyly surveys the events, not at all surprised by the transpiring events.
A team of hired killers, whose leader is known as “The Brain” (Louis Koo), have a knack for making murder look like your garden variety accident. When a job leads to the “accidental” death of one of the team members, Brain suspects it was no accident at all. Believing he was the intended target triggers a desperate and paranoid search for the mastermind behind the plot; a plot which may or may not be real.
When an accident can happen anytime and any place, who’s going to be the wiser when a man is killed in what looks like a freak occurrence? The Brain and his team are experts at knocking people off without anyone even suspecting it could be murder. Despite the subject matter, Accident is a cerebral experience that weaves an almost poignant story about people who just happen to be assassins (counter intuitive, I know). Director Soi Cheang, brings us a wonderful character study of four distinct individuals who engage in a most unconventional line of work.
Brain is the focus of the film, a cold and distant devil of a man, whose tragedy informs why he’s so closed off emotionally. The event in question was a pivotal moment in his life, the weight of which comes into play later in the film, coloring his decisions in a most destructive way.
We don’t get a lot back story on the rest of the other characters; they come to the film a fully formed team, with years of experience working together. Still, they don’t truly trust one another. Then again, how could you when it’s your job to kill people and make it look like a simple mishap? In fact, Brain is so distrustful he installs a bugging device in the club hideout so he can spy on his team when he’s not around. As a result he finds out some information they were hiding, which is the beginning of the crew’s downfall.
Every member of the group looks like your every day Joe, blending into their surroundings without drawing attention to themselves. They’ve even taken on generic pseudonyms as protection against witnesses being able to give law enforcement anything solid to go on. There’s The Brain, Uncle (Shui-Fan Fung), Fatty (Suet Lam), and Woman (Michelle Ye); each an integral part of the group. Without the crew working together on these complex plots, the whole operation would fall.
Louis Koo is dynamic in the role of the Brain; his character is intense and at the same time low-key, a cool cucumber who never shows a hint of doubt or weakness. It isn’t until his carefully crafted world is jarred by the death of crew member Fatty, that the cracks begin to show in his veneer. He knows the dangers involved in the line of work he’s chosen, telling Uncle after the older man makes a careless error, “We are not the only ones doing this type of work. If we make mistakes we will die in accidents.” Brain’s paranoia serves him well when planning a hit, but also fuels his mistrust of others, making it easy to accept the idea that he’s on a hit list of some shadow assassin group similar to his own.
“This is an uncommonly artistic film,” says Michelle Ye in a behind the scenes interview — and she is spot on. Accident is carefully crafted, especially in how it shows the process the group goes through to create their murderous schemes. During one meticulously job that hinges on it raining, Brain has to abort the mission several times until all the pieces were in place. Even when the rain finally arrives, it’s coming down harder than weather reports stated, almost thwarting their plan. Throughout it all, Cheang and the cast, paint a portrait of characters that are competent, calculating, deadly, and oddly sympathetic, even with their line of work.
Presented in standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the crisp clear images show the grittiness of the Hong Kong streets. The dark colors worn by the characters and the murkiness of the city match the grim subject matter. Subtitles are easy to read and do not detract from the flow of the film. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix highlights the rich and guttural sound of the Cantonese language. In the more intense scenes, there is no accompanying soundtrack, only the noises of busy city life. The rest of the film is enhanced by a hauntingly beautiful score from Xavier Jamaux. Bonus features include a making-of featurette and the original theatrical trailer.
Producer Johnnie To says that filmmaking in Hong Kong doesn’t garner much respect. If Accident is any indication, Hong Kong is on the verge of being a movie making powerhouse. Skillfully directed and superbly acted, the plot may take time to develop, but the film fully engages the viewer in a most unique and fascinating story.
Not Guilty…and that’s no accident.