Cross | aka Smile for Me (2012) Review

Cross | aka Smile for Me (2012) Review

Cross | aka Smile for Me (2012) Review

Director: Daniel Chan Yee Hang
Writer: Daniel Chan Yee Hang
Cast: Simon Yam, Kenny Wong, Mimi Kung, Liu Kai-Chi, Evelyn Choi, Chen Ran, Nick Cheung, Pal Sinn, Zhu Guangxuan, Mo Tzu-Yi, September Zhang
Running Time: 90 min.

By Kyle Warner

It took four directors over two years to complete Cross, a thriller that’s less than 80 minutes long with a good portion of that running time taken up by flashbacks. Why did it take so long to finish? Why was it passed from director to director in a desperate attempt to save it? I don’t know the answers but clearly something went very wrong in the making of Cross.

The film starts by giving the viewer false hope. First we get a notice that the film won the 2010 It Project NAFF Award (an award I’m unfamiliar with, but from what I understand it was awarded to screenwriter Daniel Chan’s original pitch for the film, not the finished product that went to theatres). The film kicks off and we get a cool horror movie title sequence, a rather obscure quote from the Bible, and an interesting scene as Simon Yam goes to a police station, spreads evidence across a police officer’s desk, and turns himself in for murder. Except, in Yam’s character’s eyes, he’s not really committing murder, he’s doing “God’s work.”

A devout Catholic, Yam’s killer believes suicide is an unforgivable sin. When his sick wife overdoses on pills and kills herself, Yam becomes obsessed with suicide and begins frequenting websites where people talk about suicide, give each other tips on how to kill themselves, and post videos of their deaths.

Yam’s killer has no interest in talking people out of killing themselves. Rather, he offers his services to them, saying he’ll kill them and they can find peace in death without any worries about Hell. Many people take him up on his offer and he becomes a self-righteous serial killer. And though the killer claims he gave his victims a peaceful, joyful death, one method of murder included driving a power drill into a man’s brain… which, if you ask me, doesn’t seem like a peaceful way to go.

Because the killer turns himself in at the start, all of his kills are told in flashbacks (sometimes flashbacks of flashbacks). As a result, the film never builds up much momentum, resulting in a slog of a thriller. While Yam tells his story to the police and lawyers, a criminal psychologist played by Kenny Wong (Firestorm) tries to piece together the crimes. Wong goes to Yam’s house, puts on Yam’s clothes and eye glasses, touches all his things, and apparently attempts to become the killer in order to get into his head. Ignoring the fact that he’s putting fingerprints all over evidence, this entire subplot seems completely unnecessary, as the killer is already giving them everything they want. I still don’t understand the importance of Wong’s character in the story’s narrative. The film’s cast also includes a cameo by Nick Cheung (Helios), who plays the sleazy webmaster of the suicide site. Cheung’s scene is actually one of the film’s best but I imagine the actor feels lucky he didn’t sign on to play a bigger part.

At times the film plays like a dark drama about death and faith and other times it’s a bloody serial killer thriller. Considering the four writer/directors employed to make Cross (Daniel Chan, Steve Woo, Hiu Shu-Ning, Lau Kin-Ping) one should not be surprised that the film developed a split-personality disorder during its production. So instead of just being a boring movie, Cross is often a confusing one as well.

The most baffling part of the film is the fact that Yam’s lawyer Woo Yip is played by three different actors (Jason Chang, Morning Mo, and Sit Lap Yin). Now, casting young Sit Lap Yin makes sense, as he plays the teenage version of the character in flashbacks. But Jason Chang and Morning Mo are both approximately the same age and the film switches between them with no notice, no reason, no sense of logic whatsoever. When I was first watching the film, I naturally thought they were two different characters… linked somehow… but definitely different people. Not so. Same guy. I had to go back and rewatch things to make sure. Interestingly, the film ends with credits that include freeze frame images of all the primary cast members, but the Woo Yip character and the actors that played him are mysteriously (suspiciously?) left out of the slideshow. In the white text on black screen crawl that follows, the three different versions of the character are officially identified as ‘Woo Yip (Glasses)’, ‘Woo Yip (Ego)’, and ‘Woo Yip (Young)’. If this was an artistic decision, it makes no sense. I suspect the casting of both Chang and Mo had more to do with scheduling conflicts that arose thanks to the prolonged production (or possibly one of the actors ran away from the set and never returned). Whatever the reason, the choice to cast both Chang and Mo did not work, and only served to make more of a mess of things.

In the film’s final act something snaps and whatever had once barely held the film together falls apart. We get an admittedly unexpected twist and then the rest of the film is spent explaining the twist and giving us flashbacks of all the previous kills with new, distorted filters. So many flashbacks. I guess it was easier than filming new material? I don’t know. It’s at this point that you can tell the people making the film were just ready to be done with it and passed it along to the editors to figure out.

The concept behind Cross is decent and one can imagine how it could’ve been a good movie (or perhaps a decent episode of a dark police procedural on TV). Things just went wrong along the way and all attempts to fix it only seemed to exasperate things. Simon Yam’s reputation won’t be hurt by this one as it’s clear he did just about everything he could with the character. Only Yam’s biggest fans should bother with Cross. Everyone else is better off forgetting it.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 2/10

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2 Responses to Cross | aka Smile for Me (2012) Review

  1. The concept of lawyer Woo Yip being cast as three parts is hilarious. So it may not be an artistic approach like Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, but maybe one or two of the three actors were MIA or passed away, i.e., like Heath Ledger, in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Kinda strange that Well Go would release this film. They released some duds before, but never of this magnitude. Explains why it only made it to DVD. Maybe it was a “Buy distribution rights to Z-Storm and get the rights to Cross for free” type-deal? Same goes from Simon Yam, who has always had a hit or miss-type film resume.

  2. Paul Bramhall says:

    I think you can probably count the number of people who have sat through this stinker until the end credits on one hand, and unfortunately I also take one of those positions. Not sure how many hardcore Simon Yam fans there are out there, but considering he stars in as much bad as he does good, I doubt they’d be surprised.

    Kyle I’d love to see you review the movie ‘Murderer’ with Aaron Kwok, I think you’d have a blast with it.

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