image courtesy of Universe
Year of release: 2002
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Color of Pain
Kenya Sawada. Image courtesy of Universe.
The assassin genre is one of the most tried-and-true in Hong Kong cinema. With the great number of films in the genre, with many bonafide classics such as The Killer, film-makers often feel the need to use some kind of gimmick to seperate themselves from the pack. Color of Pain, while trying to be different (and succeeding in some ways) is ultimately let down like many recent Hong Kong movies by a spotty script and lackluster acting.
The assassin in this case is played by Japanese actor Kenya Sawada, who travels to Hong Kong after a botched hit leaves him with a bullet in his head. Why exactly Kenya comes to Hong Kong, like many things in Color of Pain, is never fully explained. At any rate, Kenya spots a bank robbery in progress and convinces the gang (consisting of Terence Yin, Sam Lee and Tony Ho) to take him as a hostage instead of a pregnant woman.
Once they get to the gang's hideout, Kenya manages to "convince" (via gunpoint) the gang to let him join, and then promptly steals their car and leaves them stranded in the countryside. Now, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't exactly want that kind of guy working for me. But, again for some unexplained reason, the gang and Kenya hook up to pull a job. As you might expect, things soon fall apart for the gang, especially as the police (led by Josie Ho) begin to close in.
Ah, where to begin with this? Well, first off let's start with the look of the film itself. Even though it tries to be original, many times it just comes off as a ripoff. For instance, the first sequence is very derivative of John Woo's films. It has Kenya getting his orders in a church (The Killer), we see that he has a loving relationship with a child (Heroes Shed No Tears), and the assassination itself is reminiscent of A Better Tomorrow, right down to the slow motion. Of course, most any crime film produced since the mid-1980's has Woo's fingerprints on it, but the really great movies like The Mission can take those conventions and somehow make them their own. Many times, Color of Pain just feels like it's going through the motions.
Sam Lee. Image courtesy of Universe.
Probably the worst part of Color of Pain is its' script. To be frank, it's horrible. There are so many plot holes, under-developed characters and unnecessary scenes that it's almost laughable. A case in point is the stuff involving the daughter of the man Kenya orginally kills. She goes through this big emotional scene of wanting to get revenge, but when the time comes, the "revenge" is almost treated like a joke. Why even bother putting in the character in the first place?
Another superfluous character seems to be the cop played by Raymond Wong. Even though he is supposed to be Kenya's "brother" (ala The Killer), his character is so poorly written and their relationship so forced, their actions later in the film really do not make much sense. It doesn't help matters that both actors don't really do that good of a job. Another reviewer termed Kenya "the Japanese Ekin Cheng" and I would agree. He has exactly two expressions -- an evil scowl or a silly grin. It's not the worst acting I've ever seen, but it sure isn't Chow Yun-Fat caliber, either.
Again, the script may be at fault here. It's that annoying mish-mash of languages present in too many recent Hong Kong movies -- most viewers will probably opt for listening to the Mandarin dub instead of trying to put up with the Chinese guys mangling Japanese and the Japanese guys mangling English. We're all watching subtitles anyway, why not just let the actors speak in whatever language they feel comfortable in? The results certainly couldn't be worse than this.
Even though there are a lot of things wrong with Color of Pain, I still had a decent time watching it for some reason. I will admit that the stylish cinematography helped move things along, and the (all too brief) action sequences were well-done and fairly exciting. Also, some of the acting is good. Terence Yin once again pulls off "sleazy villain" with flair, and Josie Ho does a fine job as a tough-as-nails cop. Truth be told, Color of Pain really isn't that bad of a movie, but when you consider how many great gangster movies Hong Kong has produced, one tends to expect a little more, and Color of Pain just doesn't fully deliver the goods.
Terence Yin. Image courtesy of Universe.