Psychological thrillers about infidelity and illicit romance are making a return to Hong Kong cinema this year with Patrick Kong’s Love is Blind, Hate Too <緻命24小時> and Benny Lau’s Burning <焚身>.
The former marks Patrick Kong’s attempt to revive the Hong Kong thrillers of the ’90s and specifically, the 1993’s Veronica Yip and Anthony Wong-starred 3 Days of a Blind Girl <盲女72小時>, where his latest movie shared more or less the same narrative structure. Here, instead of Veronica Yip’s character suffering from temporary blindness after an eye operation, Love is Blind, Hate Too <緻命24小時> features Kathy Yuen as Bo, where her blindness is caused by a car accident.
With her doctor husband Wah (Ron Ng) going on a business trip, she is left home alone with her pet dog. Then, one night, a stranger named Mandel Cheng (Poon Chan-Leung) enters her home. It turns out he happens to be there to save her after Bo accidentally tripped and fell into her swimming pool. Soon, it doesn’t take long before Mandel reveals his motive and held her captive and even forces her to put on a sexy nightgown.
If you have seen 3 Days of a Blind Girl <盲女72小時>, you pretty much know where the story is going, albeit with a few tweaks here and there. Patrick Kong may have been synonymous with tepid romantic comedies but among his recent ones, You Are the One <我的筍盤男友> (2000) starring Carlos Chan and Gladys Li was the rare time I actually enjoyed his work. He did venture into the psychological-thriller territory before but in the form of 2019 miniseries called Stained <心冤>, which starred Kara Wai and Tse Kwan-Ho. That miniseries may boast a fine cast but personally, I found the episodes were mostly underwhelming.
The same can be said for Love is Blind, Hate Too <緻命24小時>. Patrick Kong, who also wrote the screenplay, relies heavily on multiple flashbacks to drive the movie forward. This, in turn, distracts and even dilutes the momentum of the movie.
The movie also lacks worthwhile suspenseful moments and so do the gratuitous scenes, which are disappointingly tame by comparison (the recreation of 3 Days of a Blind Girl <盲女72小時>‘s iconic shower scene comes to mind). It’s worth noting that both Love is Blind, Hate Too <緻命24小時> and 3 Days of a Blind Girl <盲女72小時> carry approximately the same Hong Kong film classification system of Category IIB and Category IIA. It’s just too bad the former’s rather subdued approach kind of defeated the purpose of re-introducing such a thriller in the first place.
Despite the lacklustre results, the overall cast delivers adequate performances, notably Kathy Yuen as a (temporary) blind victim and Poon Chan-Leung as a mysterious stranger.
Love is Blind, Hate Too <緻命24小時> had a brief theatrical release in Hong Kong cinemas earlier this year in January before the showtimes were abruptly halted due to the months-long COVID-19-restricted cinema closures. The movie has since premiered on the iQIYI streaming platform.
Moving on is Burning <焚身>, which marks Benny Lau’s first foray into the psychological-thriller territory. The director is previously known for nostalgia-themed romance dramas including Wong Ka Yan <王家欣> (2015) and When Sun Meets Moon <某日某月> (2018). Compared to Love is Blind, Hate Too <緻命24小時>, I actually have high hopes for his latest movie, especially given his impressive calibre as a director. But Burning <焚身> proves to be way out of his league, even though the movie has a familiar but engaging setup.
That setup in question involves Lam (Kevin Cheng Ka-Wing), who runs a clinic and has a happy family including his beautiful housewife (Rebecca Zhu) and their young son. One night he got drunk after a night out with his friend (Edmond So) in the bar and later, finds himself waking up in another woman’s home. That woman turns out to be Fong (Dada Chan), a piano teacher who teaches his son.
Long story short, Fong starts to fall in love with him and she can’t stop texting him. She even goes as far as becoming a close friend with his wife and ends up teaching their son to play the piano at home.
The “deranged/obsessed seductive woman from hell” subgenre used to make its mark in Hollywood erotic thrillers during their peak eras of the ’80s and ’90s. It’s nice to see this forgotten subgenre make a comeback of sorts in today’s Hong Kong cinema. But too bad Benny Lau lacks the narrative prowess and genre know-how to make this work. The obligatory sex scene is there, complete with Dada Chan’s Fong trying to seduce Kevin Cheng Ka-Wing’s Lam in sexy black lingerie. However, such a scene is heavily muted to the point that Benny Lau’s attempt to make a so-called erotic thriller feels like an afterthought.
It doesn’t help either when Edmond Wong, who famously wrote Ip Man <葉問> and Breaking Brothers <越獄兄弟> movie series, piles up the same old genre clichés after clichés without generating any substantial amounts of lurid thrills and storytelling. Kevin Cheng Ka-Wing does his best to play an innocent family man forced to face unlikely consequences while Rebecca Zhu is mostly reduced to a typical worried/stay-at-home housewife role. Dada Chan may have been the right fit for playing such a scorned and sexy character but the censorship limitation of this movie (shame it’s not rated Category III) prevented her from embracing her role wholeheartedly.
Love is Blind, Hate Too <緻命24小時>