A chaotic cacophony of cruelty and crime, Divergence asks for no friends and takes no prisoners in its bold attempt to push storytelling into new emotional depths. A tragically beautiful vivisection of love, corruption, and the inhuman-human condition, this brazenly honest expose of corruption rips away the social masks of respectability which its characters wear in a society more concerned with the rolling mechanism of finance than integrity. A cinematic attack against expectations and banality, this feverishly paced heart-stopper is nothing less than a punch-in-the-mouth. Just as quick to explore intimate layers of emotion hidden beneath its character's outrage as to delight in brutal bouts of explosive violence, Divergence is as easily a character study as it is hard-nosed Noir.
In a complex plot of misdirection, intrigue, and repulsive revelations, characters we both understand and fear struggle with their challenged moral concepts as viciously as they engage one another, standing at cross-roads whose profoundly disturbing philosophical ambiguities are mirrored by rough-knuckled surface action. Suen, a depressed cop on the edge of his tether, is a rough ex-TV personality lamenting the heart-rendering disappearance of his girlfriend. Extraditing a witness from the whitelands of Canada, Suen finds himself entangled in a web of betrayal, brutality, and self-doubt when his captive is murdered. Daniel Wu, the professional (surprisingly principled!) Hitman who silences the key witness in a now defunct money laundering trial, is oddly admirable, with a unique if stolid sense of old school honor.
Suen's case may be dead, but not his spirit. Sensing that the professional killer is privy to information that he desperately needs, he descends into an emotionally charged arena of violence and illusion, soon to be forced upon a moral cross-roads between right and wrong -- concepts that are as stripped of meaning as the wishy-washy legal system behind them. Meanwhile, in a script that weaves various plot-threads together without loosing track of essential characters or its grim irony, Lo Kar Leung (Ekin Cheng) is a blood-stained millionaire lawyer whose precarious rock-and-roll daughter is kidnapped, lending further tension to an already tight narrative. When we discover that Leung's wife also bares a striking resemblance to Suen's missing girlfriend, we aren't exactly surprised that the fate of these men are entangled, leading to the very philosophical and emotional divergence of the title.
Pessimistic and painful, this action-packed pulp-fiction thriller packs a brain with its wallop, and a heart with its bad attitude, demanding that its audience think, feel, and invest itself into its labyrinthine layers of Greek-like tragedy. Encouraging catharsis even while appealing to the broads-and-bullets crowd, this mean-spirited mix of mean-streets and hardened hearts is at once a mystery thriller, a crime drama, and a serious (if unexpected) examination of disturbed minds wrestling with themselves. In fact, all three of the main characters are victims and victimizers; the director is careful to show varying degrees of psychotic behavior in each, from principled killer to degraded business man. Setting is also a character, invested with a throbbing, gritty, animalistic pulse by Chan that, much like the criminal impulses lurking beneath it's characters, is hidden by polished exteriors.
The result is a movie where setting, atmosphere, and character work together to achieve an emotionally grueling pathos. Taking both itself and its audience seriously, this is not just another cop movie all badge and no brains. It is, rather, a harsh, uncompromising look at people of different wakes of life forced to face each other -- and themselves -- without any promise of salvation. A sweaty, gritty triumph!
Review by William P Simmons
|Released by Tartan Asia Extreme USA|
|Region 1 NTSC|
|Extras : see main review|