Monday, May 13, 2013

The Accident (live action movie), via Netflix

The Accident is a 2009 Hong Kong thriller.

I tried to avoid any major spoilers and think I succeeded. Still, read at your own risk - I did mention a few things that aren't revealed until later in the movie.

Synopsis:

A group of four people work together to carry out assassinations orchestrated to look like accidents. From what I could tell, each person in the group is involved in planning the "accidents," although certain people are more likely to be involved in certain tasks. The one nicknamed "The Brain" determines whether it's safe to go through with their plans or whether they need to abort, and "Fatty" is the one who collects the payments. "Uncle" and the group's lone woman help make sure the "accidents" happen as planned.

The group's latest job is a difficult one, relying on rain and everyone being exactly where they need to be in order to go through. The mission has to be aborted many times before conditions are even close to optimal. When little things don't go exactly according to plan, the Brain still opts to go forward. The target is killed, but the Brain is almost run over when a bus speeds out of control, and Fatty is killed.

Was this really an accident? The Brain immediately suspects otherwise, and a break-in at his apartment increases his suspicions. He worries that the woman in his group has betrayed them all. He realizes that Uncle is ill (Alzheimer's?) and can't be relied upon and begins investigating the situation on his own.

Review:

I added this to my Netflix queue because I was intrigued by the idea of a group of people who perform assassinations designed to look like accidents. The description sounded dark and tense, and I was interested in seeing what kind of work and planning went into arranging the “accidents.”

The movie began a little confusingly, with a car accident I at first assumed was one of the assassinations (it wasn't). The bit after that held more promise – it showed the final minutes of the group's latest target, although it wasn't initially made clear to the audience that that was what was being shown. The guy, the target, was trying to make his way out of a horrible traffic jam, with one thing after another going wrong. What he didn't realize was that he was being herded into the spot where he would be killed.

The next part of the movie showed the group's next job, including all the planning and brainstorming, plus the many times they were forced to abort because conditions weren't optimal. There was just as much detail shown when the Brain began investigating the man he believed was responsible for the accident that killed Fatty - the Brain selected an apartment, set things up so that he could have a safe view of his own front door, installed listening devices in the guy's apartment, and basically kept as close an eye as possible on the guy's every waking moment.

The premise made me expect a story that would keep me at the edge of my seat. While I wouldn't say this movie was boring, it was a whole lot less exciting than I thought it would be. Many scenes were very quiet. All the attention devoted to the work involved in setting up the second job and beginning surveillance on the man possibly responsible for killing Fatty gave everything a more realistic feel, but also slowed down the pace and, I think, helped leech the movie of the excitement I was anticipating.

I kept watching because I was still somewhat interested to see what the Brain could figure out about the guy from the insurance company. Why was Fatty killed? Had the insurance company guy been after the Brain instead? The Brain didn't trust the one woman in his group, although I admit I didn't expect him to react the way he did, at least not until he was absolutely sure about her involvement. The issues Uncle had with his memory were an ongoing worry, and I was a little surprised that the Brain went to the trouble of providing him with a place to live, but didn't bother to take his pills away, even after realizing that he was taking too many because he couldn't remember whether he'd taken them or not.

The twist near the end was a surprise, a welcome one after all of that not-quite-boredom, although it felt a little contrived. I'm also still not sure how I feel about the stuff that happened after that. How did the guy know the Brain was responsible for what happened?

All in all, this movie's pacing and level of detail weren't quite to my taste. There was very little dialogue and viewers were told the barest minimum about the characters (the woman was concerned about the Brain, the Brain was lonely because his beloved wife/girlfriend died in a car accident a while back, Uncle knew the Brain from back before his wife died, and that was pretty much it). Netflix was right when it guessed that this would be a slightly more than two-star movie for me.

I had trouble coming up with watch-alikes/read-alikes for this one - take my list with a grain of salt.

Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
  • The Box Man (book) by Kobo Abe - Another detailed and dark story where things aren't quite what they seem and the main character is a little messed up. I've written about this book. A warning: it's stranger and much more disjointed than The Accident.
  • Final Destination (live action movie) - I came across this while looking for more movies involving orchestrated accidents. I don't think I've ever seen the full movie, but I remember that what I saw was more focused on gory scares, whereas The Accident was more psychological.
  • The Conversation (live action movie) - I haven't seen this, although the descriptions I've read make me want to watch it. Those who enjoyed watching the Brain's increasing paranoia as he kept track of the insurance company guy's movements and conversations may want to give this a try.

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