At one point in A Murder Erased <被消失的凶案>, Joe Junior who plays Santos — the Department Director of Public Prosecutions talks about faeces both literally and figuratively. It was more of a monologue I’m not sure whether it’s meant to be taken seriously or simply as a joke.
The monologue in question serves as Santos’ metaphorical point of view related to the cold case of a body discovered under the staircase of a tenement. Apparently, the body had been buried there for the past eight years, where senior police officers (Eddie Cheung’s Choi and Maggie Shiu’s Cheung) and the Prosecutions Division team (among them including Stephanie Che, who plays the senior public prosecutor) having a meeting to discuss the case.
From there, the movie is shifted alternately between the flashbacks and the meeting scene. We learn the body turns out to be a victim of a dead man named Yung (Tony Ho). He constantly abuses his wife Ping (Dada Chan) and their eight-year-old son (Hu Chun-Hin) and everyone in the tenement dislikes him. A mild-mannered man named Chiu (Timmy Hung), who also lives in the same tenement, befriends Ping and her son. He is kind to both of them and Ping gradually falls in love with him, where the movie would spend a great deal of time establishing the relationship between Chiu and Ping. It was a result that drags the movie on and on, despite writer-director Dennis Law’s attempted intention to fill us in with character development.
Writer-director Dennis Law reportedly inspired his movie from a 1983 case of a corpse in a tenement’s water tank located at To Kwa Wan Road. But don’t expect A Murder Erased <被消失的凶案> to be in the same line as some of the best Hong Kong movies that are inspired by the local grisly true-crime cases populated in the ’90s era. Frankly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Dennis Law’s lacklustre calibre as both writer and director. Similar to his past directorial efforts, namely Fatal Move <奪帥> (2008) and Bad Blood <滅門> (2010), most of his movies are best described as tedious and protracted genre fares even with the appearances of familiar faces such as Simon Yam, Eddie Cheung and Maggie Shiu.
The same can be said for Law’s latest effort in A Murder Erased <被消失的凶案>. The movie actually has potential with its blend of chamber drama, murder mystery and police procedural. But Law’s overall direction remains questionable as always. For instance, he would prefer to waste time setting up a needlessly mundane scene of the characters exchanging name cards before they start the meeting. His attempt of incorporating the chamber drama into his movie is as dull as one of those repetitive and unproductive office meetings. It also doesn’t help that the dialogues are stilted, making this dialogue-heavy movie such a long-winded slog to sit through. The acting is mostly sub-par even with Eddie Cheung and Maggie Shiu as part of the cast, who both deserve better than this. Of all the actors in this movie, only Tony Ho deserves a mention here with his typically sleazy role as Yung.
As a murder mystery, the movie only gets interesting — to a certain extent, that is — during the elaborate third act when Joe Junior’s Santos starts deducing the death of Tony Ho’s Yung as well as laying out the suspects that may or may not be directly involved in the murder. And yet, I’m not sure why it is necessary for Law to include awkwardly-misplaced moments that are borderline into unlikely comedy territory. The police procedural, in the meantime, is disappointingly monotonous.