PUNISHED - Rivetting and Classy
PUNISHED (crime drama in Cantonese & Mandarin)
Cast: Anthony Wong, Richie Jen, Maggie Cheung Ho-yee, Janice Man, Candy Lo, Lam Lei and Jun Kung
Director: Law Wing-cheong
Screenplay by: Fung Chih-chiang and Lam Fung.
Time: 90 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: After the usual dosage of mindless and brutal crime thrillers that has been the staple of Hong Kong fare, this one comes as a refreshing change. Directed by Law Wing-cheong, it has the trademarks of a sleek Johnny To production - and with film noir tone.
One thing I can say is that I have never seen Richie Jen performed better than this role.
SYNOPSIS: Punished opens at the end of a botched kidnap - with ruthless property developer Wong Ho-Chiu (Anthony Wong) crying over the body of her daughter Daisy (Janice Man) at a make-shift grave. Wong blames himself as much as he does the kidnappers for the girl's death. His relationship with his drug-addict daughter had not been good lately and he had suspected Daisy of planning her own abduction to get her hands on his cash.
And as he has promised the kidnappers that he would do anything in his power to wreak revenge if anything happened to his daughter, Wong sets his bodyguard Chor (Richie Jen) to investigate the case and punish the culprits. Yes, he derives great satisfaction in watching the former gangster Chor carry out his personal brand of 'justice' (which is sent to him on his i-phone) but then there is the question of his own punishment and salvation.
REVIEW: As the ruthless businessman and tyrannical father, Wong walks a thin line between protagonist and villain. And with his years of experience in such roles, Anthony Wong manages to play the tyrant and get our sympathy too. For me the surprise here is Richie Jen who imbues Chor with the sense of unfailing loyalty and calm menace requisite of his role as the punisher. Janice Man is nicely high-strung as the spoilt brat daughter while Maggie Cheung Ho-yee is impressive as the loving wife and tolerant stepmother.
I had expected a few wild twists in the movie but the fact that the screen-writers resisted the temptation to hype up the plot is a credit to them. There are some minor flaws in the plot but on the whole, it is an engaging study of an individual's brand of crime and punishment. Also, I like the subplot involving Chor's young son from his estranged marriage. It presents a positive side to the movie's other themes about tyrannical upbringing and neglecting one's children.
THE LOWDOWN: An engaging drama with top class performances.