HEARTFALL ARISES (2016) review

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A film as grandiose and nonsensical as its title, Ken Wu’s Heartfall Arises follows John Ma (Nicholas Tse), a police detective who killed a serial killer known as The General (Gao Weiguang), but got fatally wounded in the exchange of gunfire, and thus had to be transplanted with the heart of the very man he killed. Months later, it seems a copycat of The General is at work, and John Ma himself feels his new heart is affecting his behavior: he even has memories of a woman (a woefully underused Tong Liya) he never met. Now stop the copycat he must join forces with criminal psychologist Calvin Che (Lau Ching Wan), who himself happens to have been transplanted with The General’s liver! But then why isn’t the film called Liverfall Arising?

On the surface, Heartfall Arises is a slick and appealing production, captured in a chrome aura by DP Sion Michel, unfolding in classy and/or striking Hong Kong (or Thai) locations, and headlined by a duo of appealing stars. Lau Ching Wan is excellent as always ; it’s a role he could do in his sleep, but he has never phoned in a role (well, rarely) and his wily psychologist is a delight to watch. And as 2012’s The Bullet Vanishes already showed, Lau shares impeccable chemistry with Nicholas Tse, who here is very dialed-down (sometimes bordering on sleepy), but still a charismatic presence. But all this talent goes to waste on a script so ridiculous and ill-conceived, it’s hard to imagine anybody reading it with a straight face. From the opening moments where a villain makes a narrow escape thanks to a grapple-gun and a jet pack, it’s obvious it will be hard to take Heartfall Arises seriously, but then the film takes the audience on a roller-coaster of absurd twists, through risible plot holes, and with a tone so grandiose a simple conversation can be scored by a Carmina Burana rip-off.

Long Story Short: Charismatic stars and classy production values cannot hide the fact that Heartfall Arises is a grandiose and – more damningly – utterly nonsensical mess of a film. Never boring but consistently head-scratching. **

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