Divergence (HK - DVD)
Divergence is an interesting new addition to the already packed crime genre. Although not remarkably original, it is flashy and st...
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Asia has become a great source of decent movies these days, reinvigorating both the police thriller and horror genres with a wealth of exceptional movies - not least the Infernal Affairs trilogy and the Ring trilogy, respectively. These offerings have been so good that they have unnecessarily spawned a series of redundant Hollywood remakes but I hope that sooner or later people become open-minded enough to accept some of these Asian films as real contenders to their Western counterparts. In the meantime I take solace in the fact that we just keep getting good films from the East. The question is whether or not Divergence is one of them?
The movie kicks off with a seemingly random incident where a man, who seems to be stalking a young woman on her way home, suddenly gets plucked off the streets and viciously executed. We then dive straight into the main story, with a tremendously executed action set-piece where a sniper unleashes a hail of bullets on a police convoy transporting an extradited prisoner. The prisoner was due to testify against a Mafia under-boss that the police were desperately trying to bring down. Suen is the cop leading the investigation and he is already haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his fiancée some ten years ago before this horrendous setback befalls his operation.
He see her everywhere, a random girl on a plane or in the street and the latest person he mistakes for his fiancée Fong is the wife of To-Hou Sang, the lawyer who is protecting the Mafia boss, Mr.Yiu. This time, however, she actually does bear a striking resemblance to Fong. Could it really be Suen’s missing fiancée? On the flip-side of the coin, Boss Yiu, whose own superior is getting edgy, has his own problems to deal with: the hitman he hired, Coke, is not tying up as many loose ends as he is creating and is becoming more trouble than he is worth. Eventually the worlds of these core individuals converge - although I guess ‘convergence’ would not have been as catchy a title.
Benny Chan, the man behind Jackie Chan’s surprisingly mature New Police Story, has fashioned a solid thriller in the mould that master classics like Infernal Affairs created. Utilising the same greeny-blue clinical environment and twisting betrayal-laden plot as his predecessors, Chan has still managed to forge something new in the genre, even if it is not as groundbreaking as those that have come before it. We get a decent script from Ivy Ho and solid direction but as always, a great deal of credit goes to the actors who were chosen for the parts.
Heading up the cast we get Aaron Kwok as the haunted cop Suen. It must be tough working with such a clichéd character but aside from a momentary lapse where he lets his car roll down into oncoming traffic whilst crying to terrible HK ballads, he does an excellent job at making the role his own. Daniel Wu is also superb as Coke, the hitman who finds his involvement his own life on the line, alongside that of his agent - the shaven-headed Ting, played with sultry panache by Jing Ning. Although purportedly being central to the plot, Ekin Cheung’s attorney to the mafia, To Hou-sang, does not really do a great deal until towards the end but is perfectly believable as a man harried by opposing loyalties. His wife, the girl who Suen thinks could be his long-lost fiancée Fong, is played adequately by the gorgeous Angelica Lee, even if she does not really appear to put a great deal into the role. They are all well-suited to their parts and with Gallen Law as the slimy boss, Mr. Yiu and even the great Eric Tsang (the Infernal Affairs trilogy) in a cameo part as Suen’s mentor, we get some great performances.
Solid cast, keen direction, decent script and story, some nice action set-pieces and even a bit of close-combat martial arts thrown into the mix, what more could you ask for? There is nothing particularly original on offer here, although the first chase has a couple of new ideas, the more important chase finale was strikingly reminiscent of the excellent Christopher Walken drama, The King of New York, but none of that prevents it from being a thoroughly enjoyable addition to the genre. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a great deal from some of this superb cast in the future.
Divergence is presented in an absolutely stunning 2.35:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. Occasionally it is difficult to fully appreciate the quality because the whole movie is bathed in the aforementioned bluey/green hues prevalent in many recent Hong Kong crime dramas. The detail is fantastic - right down to the sweat beading down the protagonists’ faces and we get solid blacks and no sign of grain throughout. Even though the colour scheme is biased towards greens and blues, there is some room for variety and the colours are always presented well. Overall it is a superb transfer with no complaints.
There are two almost equally good audio tracks in the original Cantonese language - a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a DTS 5.1 offering. The DTS has little superiority this time around, but I guess that that is because both tracks are already so damn good that there is little to distinguish them. The vocals are consistently presented at the forefront, with clarity and coherence, and occasionally even some directionality. The shootouts, sparse explosions and chases sequences provide for lots of surround action and the rest of the track exhibits a keen attention to detail in the effects realm. As for the score, it is presented well, mainly from the rears. Unfortunately whilst at its best it sounds like the excellent Luc Besson score to Leon, at worst it resorts to archetypal HK ballads to unsuccessfully provoke emotion. Still, it generally sounds superb and with two solid tracks on offer you can’t really ask for any more.
However, as good as the track is, the English subtitles are simply not up to scratch. Although they are far from the worst that I have ever come across, they are still very sloppy indeed, with some phrases making no sense whatsoever. As always, it is a shame because all they would have to do is get somebody who has a decent grasp of English to re-read the translations whilst watching the film and correct some rather inexcusable errors.
First up there is an audio commentary with the director Benny Chan and some of the cast, including lead Aaron Kwok. It is in Chinese with optional English subtitles, but they are even worse that the subtitles for the main picture, making it almost worthless in terms of coherence. I managed to catch a few snippets that made sense, including how this was the director's hardest project and how Kwok managed to change character to play the older and younger versions of himself, but overall it probably isn't worth your time deciphering it.
All of the rest of the extra features are on the second disc but unfortunately none of them have English subtitles. There is a ‘Making-of’ documentary that runs for fifteen pointless minutes, a could of minutes of footage from the Gala Premiere, some brief star files on the main cast and crew, thirty revealing photos, the ninety-second teaser trailer and the two minute theatrical trailer. There is also a horrendous music video for one of the terrible HK ballads used in the movie and trailers for some similar films - Heroic Duo, One Night In Mongkok, Gun Heat Team and Leave Me Alone. It's a huge shame because they put a great deal of effort into this second disc, but without English subtitles it is just worthless.
Divergence is an interesting new addition to the already packed crime genre. Although not remarkably original, it is flashy and stylish with a solid script and decent acting to boot. Those who are familiar with Infernal Affairs, should recognise the style and those unconvinced of Asian’s contribution to the genre will eventually, hopefully, be convinced with movies like this on offer. This release is a glorious two-disc edition in a silver slipcase, with an excellent transfer and two superb audio tracks. If you like solid crime dramas then this one comes recommended.
You can purchase this title for $13.99 from Yes Asia.
Review by Casimir Harlow
Not suitable for young persons and children
Release Date: 7th June 2005
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin, DTS 5.1 Cantonese
Subtitles: Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English, English Commentary
Extras: Audio Commentary, Making-Of, Gala Premiere Footage, Star Files, Photo Gallery and Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Benny Chan
Cast: Aaron Kwok, Daniel Wu, Jing Ning, Ekin Cheung, Gallen Law, Eric Tsang
Length: 100 minutes
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