Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Intruder : Cat III Part 4
Tsang Kan Cheong's Intruder is one of the lesser known Milkyway image films and along with Mad detective, the only one of their films to receive a category III rating purely for violent content.
Intruder was made in 1997, the same year as the handover of Hong Kong to China, a time of great uncertainty in the region and perhaps for this reason Intruder is almost unbearably bleak in tone throughout its running time.
Tsang Kan Cheong is primarily known as a writer in Hong Kong cinema having credits including many of Stephen Chow's movies, including Kung fu hustle, Shaolin soccer and King of comedy, hard to imagine given the tone of Intruder. Its surprising that Intruder is his only directing credit, considering what a great job he does with this film, perhaps directing wasn't a good experience for him.
Before seeing the film, my first recollection of Intruder was of it being sold as a slasher movie, which it certainly is not, a more accurate description would be Hitchcock Hong Kong style.
Intruder is an incredibly tense exercise in suspense, it wrings out every last drop of tension possible by utilising a simple but almost perfect score to underpin a series of harrowing events in a plot that is unpredictable and pretty nasty, a potent combination in a film like this.
I won't into the plot of Intruder, the unpredictability of the film is one of its biggest strengths, what I will say though is that it starts as it means to go on with a brutal girl on girl strangulation, a seriously intense struggle that seems to last forever, and really sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
Wu Chien Lien and Lai Yiu Cheung put in excellent performances, both are completely believable in their roles, Lai Yiu Cheung being especially good as an unfortunate taxi driver.
The version of Intruder I saw was the Chinastar vcd release which is now long out of print, and is pretty horrible all round. The vcd is full screen except for the opening and closing credit sequences, meaning some of the subtitles are chopped off on either side of the frame. The Image and sound quality are also pretty poor and to make it worse the disc is cut, it doesn't look like much is missing but the cuts are very jarring as it looks like they were done with a cleaver! The only other option available as far as I can tell is a German dvd, also apparently out of print but anamorphic, uncut and with English subs. The vcd is better than nothing but is far from an optimal presentation, I would love to get hold of the German disc.
Certainly with the cuts in this version, I don't think Intruder warrants the category III rating for how graphic the violence is, its more for the psychological feel of it, as the tone of the movie is so relentlessly bleak, it intensifies the power of the violence. The violence is portrayed in such a realistic manner, almost every instance of violence in Intruder is a hard fought struggle, rather than the usual quick, easy kills we are used to seeing in movies. It shows how hard it would actually be to kill another person, this only adds to the intensity of the film.
Intruder is not a perfect film by any means, in particular there is an exposition scene around two thirds of the way into the film which is clumsy at best, but considering the power of the film such small flaws are easy to forgive, and for me its easily one of the best Hong Kong films of its genre.
Just to add it also has one of the best subtitles I have seen for a while "I fail to.... excrete." Comedy gold.