Confessions of Pain (Wai-Keung Lau, Alan Mak, 2006)

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Seung Sing or Confessions of Pain is the kind of big film, with a famous cast of actors that runs in the Chinese/Hong Kong theaters during the holiday season. I felt this film had that same mix of cheesy romance and violence that is often seen in the mainstream films from this part of Asia.
Seung Sing stars Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung Chiu Wai who play two policemen, Bong and Lau. After Bong’s wife commits suicide, he quits his job and starts working as a private investigator. Meanwhile, Lau’s fiancee asks Bong to help her in the investigation of her father’s murder.

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My problem with this film is that you never know what kind of film it is. Theoretically, it’s a thriller, but the lack of tension in the story, the occasional zany characters and the romantic comedy atmosphere destroys the purpose of this film. Seung Sing starts as a romantic comedy, in a restaurant during Christmas time with mellow, romantic music in the background. Soon after that we see how the main characters and their crew follow a man to his place and how they arrest him. It presents the two policemen in action. Soon after that tragedy hits. This sense of uncertainty was felt throughout the whole 110 minutes as we were given comedic moments, drama, violence and action. It doesn’t work at all.

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It took me three days to see this film because it didn’t intrigue me as much, but I wanted to finish it. Rarely I leave film unfinished. It was hard for me to focus on it, but it was also because I was tired the whole week. It’s incredibly long, almost 2 hours and it wants to cover so much of these characters’ lives. It should have been shorter, I could have done without Bong’s love life. It insisted on showing us this aspect of his life.

Also, the film is very cheesy. The music, oh, the sad piano music. It was so annoying and cheap. It bothered me a lot. It’s one of the big problems that ruined this film. However, I enjoyed the visuals and thought that was very well handled.
The story is, as I said before, very long and kind of weird. In the first half of the film you realize that something is wrong. I usually don’t figure out the twists long before their reveal and I haven’t figured out this one either. Still, the result was pretty disappointing, not that shocking and honestly didn’t do the story any favors.

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The performances were slightly better. Tony Leung gives the best performance in the film. It’s not spectacular, not at all compared to his other work, but his character’s story was more interesting and he managed to make the best out of his story. Still, I felt Lau needed to be a more colorful character and not a one-note guy as it is presented. Takeshi Kaneshiro gave an ok performance too. Nothing special at all.
Qi Shu also appears in the film as some kind of prostitute/call girl, a girl who keeps Bong company and also being his love interest. Her character acted like a child the whole film. I think she was supposed to be some kind of comic relief, if that was ever needed in a what is supposed to be a thriller. I know she is kind of a big deal in Hong Kong, but this is the second film I’ve seen her in, the first one being a Jackie Chan action comedy that was constantly aired on TV when I was little, so I don’t have much to compare the role to. She was fine in this role, it’s not her who was bad, its was the writing of the character so we can’t really blame her for doing the best she could.

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Seung Sing is a film made to please the general audience giving them a little of everything which makes it a big mess. The performances were just fine, nothing outstanding. I think the Asian audience, mainly Hong Kong and Chinese people, will enjoy the film as they are more acquainted with the actors, the setting, the humor and other aspects of the film than a Non-Asian audience. But as a whole, Seung Sing was a disappointing thriller and I would recommend (maybe) checking it out only if you’re a  big fan of the actors, otherwise stay away from it.

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