Director: Roy Chow
Writer: Roy Chow Hin, Christine To
Cast: Nick Cheung Ka Fai, Simon Yam Tat Wah, Janice Man Wing San, Kay Tse On Kei, Michael Wong Man Tak, Gordon Liu Chia Hui, Ken Lo, Mike Leeder
Running Time: 107 min.
“Nightfall” opens in a prison shower with actor Nick Cheung engaging in a brutal brawl – a sort of slow motion’d, abstractly-directed take on “Eastern Promise’s” infamous fight scene. The violent scuffle sets unrealistic expectations for the rest of the film’s action quotient as “Nightfall” settles in to become your standard police procedural.
The movie performed solidly at the Chinese box office, earning Nick Cheung (“The Stool Pigeon,” “The Beast Stalker“) kudos for his performance as a mute murder suspect. Cheung does what he can with a role that robs him of any dialogue but, ultimately, “Nightfall” feels too routine for what’s supposed to be a pulse-pounding thriller.
As it turns out, Simon Yam is actually main protagonist of the film. Yam is one of Hong Kong’s most reliable character actors, having played his share of crazy villains and gigolos over the past twenty years, but sometimes he turns in a performance so subtle you can barely tell if he’s acting. Such is the case here with Yam portraying a burnt out detective. We’ve seen this character before – the maverick cop with a passion for digging up cold cases everyone else has overlooked, whose commitment to his job leads to a strained relationship with his teenage daughter.
And his latest case isn’t helping any: a famous concert pianist (Michael Wong) has been murdered with nary a suspect in sight. It feels like ages since Michael Wong has shown his face in a Hong Kong production; one gets the impression he agreed to appear in “Nightfall” just for the chance to chew the scenery as an unhinged stepfather. Wong takes to his role with zeal but his blatant over-acting doesn’t help the entertainment factor of the movie at all.
Yam’s beleaguered cop tries to uncover the clues behind Wong’s death while Nick Cheung lingers in the shadows, constantly throwing suspicion on his involvement in the case. The truth is the audience will likely have the murder solved long before Simon Yam’s character puts all the pieces together, so the film often moves at a crawl while the viewer waits for the police to catch up to their theories. There’s not much action to keep us entertained in the meantime, despite the opening prison brawl and a later scuffle on a skytram, which leaves “Nightfall” about as exciting as your standard TV cop procedural.
In reality, this is the kind of movie that Hong Kong used to churn out en masse during the 80’s and early 90’s – a serviceable crime thriller – except now it has the added novelty of being an incredibly rare occurrence in today’s HK film industry and the glossy production values that come as a result. The allure of old-school Hong Kong cinema might be enough to convince some viewers to purchase a copy of the film, but “Nightfall” fails to make good on its promise.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 5.5/10