EDGE OF INNOCENCE (2017) review

101346.25248684_1000X1000Based on the novel Summer, The Portrait of a 19 Year Old by Soji Shimada, Chang Jung-Chi’s Edge of Innocence follows Kang Qiao (Huang Zitao), a carefree student who ends up in the hospital with a broken leg after crashing his motorbike on the freeway. In between visits from his friends Zhao Yi (Calvin Tu) and Zhu Li (Li Meng), the latter hopelessly in love with him, he spends his time looking out the window, at a house where a stunning young woman (Yang Caiyu) lives with her parents (Chang Kuo Chu and Samatha Ko). Now spying on her daily with binoculars, Kang Qiao falls madly in love with the woman, until one day he witnesses her murder her own – apparently abusive – father with the help of her mother, and burying the body in their backyard. At the same time, he is approached on WeChat by a mysterious person who seems to know everything about him, and about what he has seen unfold in the house by the hospital.

Edge of Innocence starts off, pleasingly enough, like a compendium of Hitchcockian tropes. A man with his leg in a a cast, killing time by spying on neighbors with binoculars while being dotted on by a beautiful woman, until he witnesses a murder: this is so close to Rear Window that one is almost surprised Huang Zitao wasn’t asked to do a Jimmy Stewart impression (whatever that would look like). Vertigo and a few others in the rotund master of suspense’s filmography are also called to mind as fascination for a woman and deceitful appearances are conjoined and weaved into the plot. Though derivative, this opening third is intriguing and given some poignancy by Stanley Fung as an old man with whom Kang Qiao shares his hospital room.

Then the film unfortunately devolves into a serviceable but entirely rote soap opera, getting bogged down in a trite romantic interlude (with perfume ad clichés aplenty), ending promising subplots with a whimper, and pulling out minor twists that deflate the plot rather than turn it on its head. It doesn’t help that Yang Caiyu is achingly gorgeous but impossibly bland in a role on which the film relies almost entirely for mystery and allure. Faring better, though still hindered by the script’s shortcoming, is Huang Zitao, whose aching vulnerability and boyish charm are somewhat reminiscent of the late Leslie Cheung, all things being equal. With the right roles and the help of maturity, one can easily see him transcend his status as a “fresh meat”. Equally promising is Li Meng, who makes the most of her mildly ambiguous role, while Chang Kuo Chu, in a small but pivotal role, brings a bit of gravitas to a film that too often feels lightweight. The following sentence might be considered a spoiler. And the central theme of the loss of innocence can only be poorly developed when the film closes on a smooth and silky happy ending.

Long Story Short: Edge of Innocence entertains while it pilfers Alfred Hitchcock, but disappoints when it chooses trite romance over insidious ambiguity, bringing its initially alluring mystery to a whimpering close. **1/2

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3 Comments

  1. Ming

     /  July 4, 2017

    I was expecting more from Yang Caiyu, she’s obviously really easy on the eyes so that was never a worry throughout the film but the character did lack allure (especially during the climax of the film when the audience finds out about her past, it just doesn’t fit). Li Meng did the most with what she had and I wished Calvin Tu’s character had been more fleshed out as he does play an important part in the entire plot. As for Huang Zitao, good effort, he added an innocence to his character and somehow made him endearing despite his many questionable actions in the movie. Agreed that he could be a star in the making. Overall, the movie had a strong start but ended a little weak for me – still quite enjoyable all in all.

    Reply
    • Agreed.
      Have you read the book this is based on? I wonder if the mystery is more interesting in the book.

      Reply
      • Ming

         /  July 4, 2017

        I have not but I can imagine the books being much more rich and descriptive, I wouldn’t mind giving it a read.

        Reply

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