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Blu-ray Review: Accident (2009)

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Accident is a crime thriller/character study hailing from Hong Kong. It is a movie that is equal parts intriguing and infuriating. I really expected to like it more than I did, but then I was not really sure what I was getting myself into. I will say that the concept worked well; where it failed for me was in the execution.

The movie presents us with a team of assassins. Rather than the usual hard-edged loner like the ones found in movies like The Professional and The Jackal, Accident presents us with a four-man team that stage their hits to look like untraceable accidents. They are very good at what they do.

We watch them as they meticulously plan and execute a job. They make sure all the bases are covered and no evidence is left behind that could be traced back to any of them. They never meet the clients face to face and they never get involved with their reasons or motivations. They simply accept the job, work it to completion, collect payment, and move on.

It is amazing to watch the team work. They are led by Brain (Louis Koo), he is a genius who plans all the jobs; his team are Fatty, Uncle, and an unnamed woman. Each works meticulously to prevent detection. However, as good as they are, mistakes can happen.

The movie’s tone shifts as one job ends with an accident that leaves one of their own dead. This is where everything changes. Early in the film it is mentioned that they are not the only ones in the game and others would be eager to take their spot. Brain’s paranoia begins to take over; he thinks the accident that plagued their last job may not have been an accident. His thoughts of paranoid conspiracy drive a wedge between him and the team and he begins an investigation into who may have been behind the “accident.”

So, while the first half of the movie focuses on what they do, the second half focuses specifically on Brain’s descent into paranoia. His descent is fast and somewhat understandable.

The movie clocks in at 87 minutes, but feels at least a half hour longer and herein lies one of the problems. Accident moves at a lethargic pace; even with the short run time, it feels as if it drags on forever. I was interested in seeing what would happen, but I kept waiting for something, anything, to happen. I am not someone who requires constant action, but at times watching this felt like watching paint dry.

Another problem I had was the development of the plot. The split between the two halves of the movie is pretty stark. The shift happens and it never looks back. I do not think the story is nearly as fleshed out as it could be. I would have loved to see more of the team dynamic, not to mention Brain’s hinted at tragic past. There is also the introduction of a memory issue with Uncle, but it feels a little shoehorned in and comes up too quickly to really be believed.

Do not get me wrong, there is a lot to like about the movie, it just isn’t as strong as it could have been. The story is an interesting one. I really liked the setup, and the idea of accident hit men is a good one. I also really liked the mystery of the accident that happens to them and the uncertainty that comes with it. I can completely understand the resulting paranoia. These are very effective elements that drew me in, if only it took me deeper.

Louis Koo is very good as Brain. Of all the performances in the movie, his is the only one worth paying attention to. I like the supporting cast, but it is Koo who holds everything together. Just watch his face and how it changes through the course of the movie; it tells you a lot about his mindset.

Accident was directed by Pou-Soi Cheang and he certainly knows how to craft an interesting film. There is no denying the pull that the movie has. Sure, it is on the slow side and could probably have been developed a bit more and run a bit longer, but the concept is engrossing and nearly enough for me to say I really like the movie. It doesn’t hurt that the score, by Xavier Jamaux, is really good.

Audio/Video. The image is presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 and this is where the problems begin. I have learned that the film’s original aspect ratio is 2.39:1. Why it was cropped so much, I do not know, but knowing this makes sense as some of the sequences do not really look good at all. Also, for movie fans, this ratio change should make this a no sale.

Sadly, the ratio is not the only problem. The overall image is not very sharp. There is a distinct lack of detail, most notable in some close ups that just look flat. Colors are washed out and not well rendered. At times, especially in the streets, the video looks noisy. It just does not look good at all.

Fortunately, the audio fares better than the video. The primary tack is a Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (there are also Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks) and it sounds petty good. It opens up the film somewhat, particularly during the big accident scene. The score is represented very nicely and the dialogue is always clear. It should also be noted that the subtitles cannot be removed.

Extras. One extra is a thirteen-minute Making Of featurette that features some interviews with the cast and crew about the plot along with some behind the scenes footage from the set.

Bottomline. Despite my reservations, this is certainly a movie worth seeing. It may have some serious pace issues, but it is a story that is interesting with a strong lead performance. The problem is that the quality of the disk and the cropping situation make it hard to fully recommend. Perhaps rent this and, if you like it, seek out an import with the proper ratio.

Movie: Recommended.
Blu-ray: Not Recommended.

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