Is "Nightfall" Still a Crime Thriller if it Fails to Thrill with an Obvious Mystery? Review

Can an action crime thriller still claim those genres if it's never particularly thrilling, its crime obvious from the minute its perpetrator is introduced on screen, and completely devoid of action? That seems like a stretch. The slow pace and predictable plot of Chow Hin Yeung Roy's Nightfall strip it of the genres it desperately wants to claim stake in, and all that can be said for it is that it's beautifully shot with its Hong Kong backdrop and attractive cinematography. The real travesty of Nightfall, however, is how despite the police knowing all the facts about what's really occurred, they make no attempt to communicate to the suspect that he doesn't need to run. If set up right, it could have played as a tragedy, but instead it's a series of bungled opportunities and an unnecessarily bloody end to something that could have resolved in a touching moment.

Accused of murdering his sweetheart Eva when they were both teenagers, Wong (Nick Cheung) barely manages to survive his prison sentence and is released about 20 years later. Upon his release he takes up residence on a mountain opposite the house of his former love only to discover a young girl who bears a striking resemblance to Eva, and who's living under the despotic rule of Eva's father, the celebrated musician Han Tsui (Michael Wong), who emotionally and physically abuses her whenever she shows any sign of a life outside of school and her music. When Han Tsui ends up dead, Wong becomes suspect number one due to his connection to Eva's death. As Detective Lam (Simon Yam) hunts him down, Wong does his best to remain hidden while carrying out a secret agenda linked to the events of the fateful night that sent him to jail all those years ago.

Even in the film's most tense moments, there's not a single thrill. A chase scene involves little more than speed walking through a crowded commons area and people slipping in and out of doors only to escape calmly on foot. The mystery of the crime fizzles out almost immediately as Wong is clearly portrayed as a man who doesn't wish harm on anyone, even if we've just watched him defend himself brutally in a jailhouse bathroom brawl, and consequently we draw the only real conclusion available as to what really happened to get him wrongfully arrested. And in case you couldn't piece it together, a 5-minute montage at the film's end spells it all out piece by piece.

All of that pales in comparison though to the final showdown that should have been nothing but the detective letting Wong know that he knows what really happened and that he doesn't need to worry for his or anyone else's safety and can go home peacefully. Instead, the police go in shooting creating an unnecessary stand-off and the circumstances for pointless tragedy that's only tragic because of the writer's own ineptitude, not because we care all too much about the characters.

Nightfall is a wasted opportunity that doesn't deliver on any of its genres' promises.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

A production featurette is the only extra.

"Nightfall" is on sale May 21, 2013 and is not rated. Crime, Thriller. Written and directed by Chow Hin Yeung Roy. Starring Nick Cheung, Simon Yam, Michael Wong.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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