Overheard – Review

Directed by Alan Mak & Felix Chong
Starring Sean Lau Ching-Wan, Louis Koo, Daniel Wu
99 minutes
Opens November 11, 2009 @ 7pm, Bloor Cinema, Opening Night Gala Canadian Première at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

***** stars out of five

Whenever a movie prevents me from visiting the washroom or dipping into my buttered popcorn, I know it’s game over. And such was the case with Overheard – a riveting crime thriller revealing the corruption within the unholy circle of insider trading and criminal law enforcement surveillance in Hong Kong.

It opens with the staccato of a rapid heartbeat, understated suspicious activity of men in suits, and not a word spoken for what seemed an eternity. Superb storytelling rule number one: show me, don’t tell me!

Who are these guys! Where are they? What are they doing? When is it happening? Who’s zooming who? And most curiously, why is it happening? Superb storytelling rule number two: mystery is at the heart of drama.

Cut to: a man and woman lying in bed, all arms and legs. A female hand reaches for a condom in a tiny antique box. We are spared the writhing, moaning and groaning.

Cut to: a reverse shot of a male figure, pants around his ankles, viewing the action from an iron gate. I say, please show and tell me more. But no. You have to guess.

Cut to: two best friend male cops secretly discussing the unfaithfulness of one of their wives. One of the men acts distracted and says not a word. We know he’s the adulterer. Silence once again. Superb storytelling rule number three: less is more.

The audience is continually kept in the dark, guessing the outcome of each and every ambiguous and contradictory moment. I found myself out of breath, casing the plot, which was always two blocks ahead of me.

The centre piece of Overheard revolves around three main characters, members of the Commercial Crime Intelligence Bureau and how their bond of friendship is tested, destroyed, then singularly redeemed.

What impressed me the most was how moments of playful black humour were mixed with an undertone of threatening violence, never quite fully delivered until the film’s final moments and secondly, how the writers and actors humanized their characters. I like every one of them. Even the villain who finally tasted his just desserts. Superb storytelling rule number four: make the audience care about the characters.

Why See It?
This movie is a masterpiece in its portrayal of those who live and die by the sword and where justice prevails. However, given the right or wrong circumstances, no-one is above the law. We are all morally grey …

It is a fast-paced mental and emotional aerobic workout and reminds us of the loyal bonds of love and the strength of true friendship while warning us if anyone can ever be fully trusted.

A jigsaw puzzle of breathtaking intrigue, it defies you to solve its hidden mysteries and walk away without the full value of your time and money. See it! Those who hesitate are lost!