All of a Sudden
Hong Kong 1996
Directed by Herman Yau.

Two guys are just yelling at each other after a minor fender bender, when all of a sudden, a naked woman crashes onto the top of one of their cars, dead, an apparent suicide.

Simon Yam plays her bereaved husband, who upon discovering her suicide note indicates she was having an affair with her boss (Alfred Cheung), decides to lay a baseball bat upside his head. His botched attack leads to an accidental kidnapping of the man's wife (Irene Wan) and son.

Comedian Dayo Wong plays the detective on the case. For the most part, the script just requires him to do a Columbo impersonation (constantly relating personal asides that seem to have nothing to do with the case, then the last minute casual aside, "Oh and just one more thing, Mr. Junebug, what brand of cigar do you smoke?" that nails the suspect). But just as I was about to ratchet down my expectations for the movie about twelve notches, it got better. Every character was somewhat complex, each with motives and a secret past. Even Dayo Wong, as a walking cliche, became a much more nuanced and interesting character by the end.

Director Herman Yau manages to keep you guessing, revealing just the right amount of information at the right time, a very tricky thing with thrillers. Bad thrillers are either obvious from the beginning or throw in a few dozen completely implausible, and thus surprising, plot twists at the end that nevertheless fail to satisfy. Here, all the characters remain internally consistent. The suspense is punctuated by short moments of extreme violence (which happen, I feel obligated to point out, all of a sudden), one of which was quite shocking even to this jaded Hong Kong movie viewer.

An undercurrent of eroticism runs through the movie as well. When Dayo Wong is first on the scene of the suicide, we see him block part of his vision, so that he cannot see the dead girl's bloody head, so that he can ogle her beautiful, mostly unblemished, nude body. Later, Irene Wan offers her body to the kidnappers if they would let her go, still later one of them attempts to rape her. Her husband is alleged to have had an affair, and maybe more, the kidnapper feels he took his wife from him, while the detective cannot stop talking about his own wife in constant asides.

Fans of suspenseful films will know how infrequently they are decently scripted. ALL OF A SUDDEN is an exception to the rule, and is worth seeking out.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on July 04, 2004.

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