Revenge: A Love Story

Title: Revenge: A Love Story
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Dark Romantic Thriller
Starring: Juno Mak, Sola Aoi
Director: Ching-Po Wong
Language: Chinese

Terracotta East Asian Film Festival: #3

The Chinese have a growing cinema industry that still stands in the shadows of the Eastern giants of Korea and Japan, largely seeming to focus on Action and period drama's; thriller's have always seemed to be the main territory of South Korea and they have gained acclaim for it as a result, which altogether makes this a pleasant surprise and not without its twist on the conventional style. When the altogether not the brightest street bun vendor, Kit (Juno Mak), sees Wing (Sola Aoi) in passing it's love at first sight, and he can't help but seek out the young mildly mentally disabled woman. Love quickly blossoming between the two, it isn't long before their world comes crashing down around them; taken into custody by the police, it's all they can do to frame Kit as the violent mass murderer known as 'The Dissector,' and stall his bloody vendetta against them. As the horrific truth they so desperately tried to cover up comes to light, we learn of his relationship to the policeman and the pain they have forced him to silently endure.

There isn't an awful lot of speech between the two unlikely lovers but there never needs to be; they feel as suited to one another in both their mental difficulties as it's possible to be, and the bond that is formed never feels anything less than genuine. A large part of this is down to the completely unexpected mesmerising performance by Sola Aoi (if you weren't aware of her past as a Japanese porn actress, then this wouldn't give you any hints otherwise) who seems to have shed her skin and been reborn anew, proving herself as more than her background would suggest, capable of tackling difficult roles and pulling them off like so few can. It's likely she was amongst the very few who would even be willing to go near such a delicate role, and yet that beautiful innocence she portrays throughout that gets torn down with such brutality manages to propel the film forward and serves as a constant reminder of why Kit is completely incapable of letting it go.

And yet, rather than coming across as a glamorisation of the notion of revenge, as is the norm, it takes a far more ambiguous approach; as much as we root for the man avenging the abuse dealt to his lover, as the story develops it becomes apparent that the more sensible action would be to move on and enjoy the time they have left with one another rather than tread the deadly spiral that can only end in tragedy. The enemies on the other side aren't painted as black and white as morally corrupt policeman but altogether human and clearly affected by the situation they find themselves in, knowing that verbal apology will not end the feud that has been started and acting out as one in order to protect their own lives. The action delivered is often bloody and realistically shot with minimal use of music, letting their actions speak for themselves without outside interference and the budget neither feels constrained nor as excessive as the Korean contemporaries it competes against. It all could have easily fallen into that realm of B-Movie banality, but instead it strives for a sense of poetry in the tale being told, and whilst it never quite reaches those heights this, difficult to watch underdog remains a harrowing yet beautifully bittersweet tale that ranks amongst the best thrillers I've seen for years.


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