Port of Call
Released April 6, 2015 (HKIFF), June 26, 2015 (NYAFF)
2 hrs 0 mins
Languages: Cantonese with English subtitles
Director: Philip Yung
Writer: Philip Yung
Aaron Kwok as Officer Chong
Elaine Jin as Jiamei's Mother
Jessie Li as Jiamei Wang
Michael Ning as Chi-Chung Ting
Review by Stephen M.
Aaron Kwok's latest Hong Kong film that helped to open the New York Asian Film Festival has many things to like in a crime drama. Amazing acting by its lead characters, and visually stunning cinematography unfortunately is set backed by the Director's unusual choice of sequencing due to the heavy use of flashbacks. Based on a true story of a murder of a 16 year old prostitute in Hong Kong back in 2008, the approach taken by Director Philip Yung is a big risk that ultimately pays off despite some flaws.
It is quite interesting in that their biggest lead in the film which is Aaron Kwok as Officer Chong, while an interesting character doesn't necessarily has the most memorable scenes. Jessie Li as Jiamei, the victim and Michael Ning as Chi-Chung Ting, the suspect puts on amazing performances that will memorize you every time they get some screen time. This despite Chi-Chung Ting's limited dialogue, his presence in the way he just carries himself in each scene is quite heavy. In addition to the superb acting, I love the fact that the film is not so much a who did it but why? The methodical approach that Philip Yung takes in breaking apart the crime to explain every little facet is engrossing. There's a heavy use of flashbacks that both is a blessing and a curse.
No major spoilers but in regards to the flashbacks, there is one particular scene, where Jiamei's mother asks her for some earrings back that was given to her by her mother's friend who wants it back not knowing how expensive they were. Immediately after that scene, we have a scene showing the mother's friend asking for the earrings back from Jiamei's mother... Wouldn't it have made more sense to show it in order of the friend asking first and then the mother asking the daughter? As well, aside from some flashbacks showing the year, there is a bit of confusion as to the order of some of the flashbacks as far as Jiamei's relationship to Chi-Chung Ting.
Overall, I would recommend this film. Rarely do you see a crime drama as thought provoking and methodical as Port of Call. Aaron Kwok continues to show that his acting abilities can rival his singing skills in playing multi-faceted characters. I look forward to seeing more films by Michael Ning and Jessie Li with their phenomenal performances in Port of Call. Today is the last day to catch the film at New York Asian Film Festival. Hopefully you have tickets already as there is a Q&A afterwards with the Director Philip Yung and Aaron Kwok and tickets are sure to sell out.