The well-known mantra “trust no one” takes spectacular, at times horrific meaning in director-co-writer (along with Yuli Chen, Yen-Chi Chen, Ze-Zing Cheng, Dorothy Chen) Cheng Wei-Hao’s third feature. The pace is altered brilliantly between thoughtful, quick and purposely reckless. In many ways the real stars of the film are cinematographer Chi-Wen Chen and editor Kipo Lin, making the non-linear narrative (jumping back and forth between deadly events nine years ago and present-day revelations that bring a partly cold case to bloody, all-revealing life), seldom producing a dull moment.
At the centre of it all is investigative journalist Yi-Chi Wang, who almost a decade ago ended up being “first on scene” at a rainy-night car crash that left only one survivor. The intrepid reporter got not only a scoop on the incident, but also helped himself to a split-open bag from the back seat. Going full circle, Wang finds history repeating itself in the present day, scooting by a freeway traffic jam (isn’t that what the emergency lane is for?) and beating the first responders finding an upscale sports car half totalled. Making his story bound for the headlines comes with the realization that the two injured passengers are a Taiwan Senator and shapely f- or g-cup (depending on the scene) woman who would make the front page or first frame of any news outlet. Armed with a full-service cellphone, the photos and videos are uploaded to his station just as approaching sirens are heard.
From there, the lies and coverups (past and present), systemic corruption between the authorities and those who write their stories, along with an apparent kidnapping keep the action moving steadily forward as Cheng gradually allows viewers to piece together the incredible events and relationships then and now. The kidnapping is the glue as it is the sole survivor from the first crash (Ai-Ting Hsu—well played with a coolness and determined grit by Ko Chia Yen) that Wang is desperate to find in order lay bare the whole truth. The telling line, “every step leaves a footprint”—in this adventure—should be amended: “every step leaves a footprint, if only we had the eyes to see.”
As Wang, Kaiser Chuang leads the production with his superb acting skills (both physical and emotional), and expertly nuanced expressions while many of his beliefs fall apart as well as a masterful sense of irony with the fact that he is not entirely blameless—becoming part of the story rather than just reporting it.
Wei-Ning Hsu delivers a wonderfully calculated take on Wang’s co-worker and sometime bedmate, Maggie. Readily oozing evil through every pore, Mason Lee turns in a deeply gruesome performance as wayward cop, Wei, especially his visage which speaks horrific delight going about his Hannibal Lecter-like “duties”.
Certainly not a production for the faint of heart, this film is well worth a viewing both for its craft, and its, sadly, entirely believable view of how those in power are willing to do anything to stay there. JWR