After spending the last few years directing two horror movies including Hungry Ghost Ritual <盂蘭神功> (2014) and Keeper of Darkness <陀地驅魔人> (2015), acclaimed HK actor Nick Cheung tries his hand at different genre this time around: a seedy crime thriller titled The Trough <低壓槽>, in which he also leads the role as an undercover cop.
But Cheung, where he co-wrote the screenplay with Wen Ning, isn’t interested to make the usual crime-thriller genre often seen in the HK cinema. Instead, everything here is highly stylised to the point it feels like you’re watching a graphic novel in motion. Think something like Sin City but minus the signature monochrome palette with splashes of colour, and you’ll get the idea. Even the city itself is fictional (in this case, Solo Field), where it occasionally rain (a shade of David Fincher’s Se7en quickly came to mind) while the sky is often dark and gloomy.
The story centres on Qiu (Nick Cheung), an undercover cop disguised as a gangster assigned by his superior Jim (He Jiong) to find out the elusive criminal mastermind nicknamed the “Boss”.
The Trough <低壓槽> marks Cheung’s third directorial effort and he does show some potential in this movie, particularly during the first half when Qiu deals with different gangsters that include colourful cameo appearances from Michael Miu, Lam Suet and Yuen Wah. It was admittedly fun and exciting, complete with well-choreographed violent shootouts (the earlier scene set in the laundry shop is particularly staged with enough verve).
But once the story progresses further involving police corruption as well as subsequent motive and identity of the enigmatic “Boss”, the movie starts to wobble and even drags in most parts. By the time the anticlimactic third act takes place in an unlikely yet peculiar setting that you have to see for yourself, it looks as if Cheung tries too hard to expand his storyline in a different direction. It’s just too bad he fails to sustain the momentum over the course of the movie’s nearly two-hour running time.
As for the cast, Cheung exudes his usual charismatic self as a lone undercover cop with a tragic past. But as a director, he remains rough around the edges. Perhaps if he let someone else more qualified to direct instead, The Trough <低壓槽> might turn out better than expected.