Exodus (2007)

Directed by: Edmond Pang
Written by: Edmond Pang, Vincci Cheung & Jimmy Wan
Producer: Edmond Pang & Stanley Tong
Starring: Simon Yan, Annie Liu, Nick Cheung, Irene Wan, & Maggie Shaw

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2008:
Best Supporting Actor (Nick Cheung)
Best Cinematography (Charlie Lam)

Veteran cop Tsim Kin Yip (Simon Yam) questions a person accused of peeping but the subject Kwan Ping Man (Nick Cheung, looking the part and swearing like a drunken sailor) has an uncommon reason behind his actions. He is gathering evidence of a conspiracy. His theory; the murder of men is planned by women...in the women's restrooms. Tsim performs his duty by taking the statement and goes to work on the case with resistance from his superiors. Living with one of those potentially dangerous females himself, i.e. his wife Ann (Annie Liu), what lies ahead as Tsim probes a rather uncommon case?

And it's still not getting old! I.e. the synopsis that comes with a new Edmond Pang movie that usually rings of some veerryy wrong things. Ok, after Isabella Pang isn't echoing incest again in his latest Exodus but with the frame of thought that concerns the female lavatory, eyebrows are raised high yet another time. Once again for the right and unexpected reasons?

I also realized that now it's fun to sell your friends or new peeps the idea of these basic, naughty and questionable frameworks of flicks because Pang hides something else in his head often. Reading his Director's Statement, you'll find a very candid view of observations made by a younger Pang and thoughts of watching women entering restrooms, coming out subsequently rejuvenated rested in his head only to be brought out in 2007. A slow, challenging, often times intriguing, dark and difficult experience, the sole problem of Pang's mystery is that he won't make any new friends. It's for established ones and those he will probably divide too! But as part of the Hong Kong cinema output, Exodus finds a place right smack in the middle of the big, commercial vehicles and the quick, much needed local. It's therefore very much its own and we're thankful for the daring positioning.

Dropping much slick, arty touches that Isabella came with (and alienated viewers with it due to its "obvious" connection to the works of Wong Kar-Wai), still we're in some kind of abstract territory it seems as Pang has DOP Charlie Lam shoot a weirded out opening with policemen in scuba gear beating a suspect bloody and the shot starts on the Queen! Okidoki then ...but latching mentally onto the synopsis, do we have a male director spewing out his hatred for women? Probably not as the path the narrative takes is so unplowed, it seems like Pang is conjuring up images in his head of what it MIGHT be that goes on behind closed doors. Reality or not, it's up to you. Men and violent tendencies could be a tangent too in this black comedy that is low on comedy, laughs and true darkness. Feel divided yet friends?

Yes indeed, Exodus burns slowly, possibly never amounts to anything come conclusion time (if you're a more intelligent viewer than me, you'll find stuff to "get" probably) but while having a connection to Pang's work isn't necessarily the clinching factor to want to decipher Exodus, it definitely does help because the somewhat somber, slow cinema on display here doesn't play well into a crowd just after a quick fix, not even a quick Edmond Pang fix.

No, on display is sort of a tricky The X-Files earthly conspiracy of some wacky yet black kind with a male at its center that walks a dangerous path. Simon Yam's Tsim doesn't exactly live a married life of dread, nor seems unhappy with a woman by his side. No one of those things represents the trigger to look deeper into the curious testimony left by Nick Cheung's Kwan Ping Man. No, having served the force for 20+ years, Tsim sees a chance to take a weird case far for his own career fulfillment. Very much prepared to follow through, walking clean, stale, stark surroundings, the career path dissatisfaction (worn on the inside) triggers the trip outside of the bubble.

One shouldn't go too far in explaining the rather odd, again probably unexpected paths of Exodus but the in place wackiness translating into something possibly real yet black turned typically Pang off-beat, reveals a common thread about conspiracies that again has to do with walking outside of your established, safe environment. When someone is prepared to do so, do you reap a reward or a painful separation? It applies to both sides in Edmond Pang's slow burning frame and if it seems abstract in words, it's a service to the final, unresolved effect of Pang's. Underwhelming could almost act as a compliment, even down to the performances but there's reason aplenty to remain a friend, an open one of Pang's tools of the trade and certainly one is happy for him to stretch what his cinema is about. Men and particular women have a system in his created world. A system he does not judge nor embrace and some of his characters work the system like they have been taught, for better or worse. When it comes crashing down, Pang's hand doesn't slap hard but forces you to think in different ways. It's well worth it but be prepared to be equally divided as his sexes are in the film.

The DVD:

Deltamac presents the film in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1 approximately, with anamorphic enhancement. Clear and sharp, the subdued nature in parts of the film is represented well too.

Audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital EX 5.1, Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 but as I'm not equipped with such a system, my assessment of this disc aspect will be left off this review.

The English subtitles read loud and clear with only minor drops in quality due to grammar errors. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

Extras arrive in the form of an audio commentary with director Edmond Pang who is joined by his co-writers Vincci Cheung and Jimmy Wan. Unfortunately only simplified and traditional Chinese subtitles come with the yack track. Furthermore we get the trailer, an animated Photo Gallery (2 minutes) and a 14 minute, 4 second Making Of that IS subtitled in English (along with Chinese sub options). Making sure we learn nothing but the fact that an Edmond Pang-shoot is as loose as can be, the program is a wonderfully stupid video diary that neatly contrasts the actual mood of the film. Finally the requisite and well-written Director's Statement from Pang is included, this time on the reverse cover of the dvd.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson