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    Double Vision

    Second sight

    "Double Vision" looks very much like a lost Chinese episode of "The X-Files," but it's still a good, weird ride starring Hong Kong star Tony Leung and American actor David Morse.


    If you don't mind your creepy detective thrillers slightly warmed over, "Double Vision" is a pretty good ride.

    Original title: 雙瞳.
    Directed by: Chen Guofu.
    Written by: Chen Guofu, Su Zhaobin.
    Cast: Tony Leung Ka Fai, David Morse, Rene Liu, Leon Dai, Kuei-Mei Yang, Sihung Lung, Brett Climo, Wei-Han Huang.
    In Mandarin and English with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site | Taiwanese site
    Anthology Film Archives 32 Second Ave. (at Second Street) Sun., May 18, 2003, 9:15 p.m. Wed., May 21, 2003, 9 p.m.

    Asian Films Are Go! 2003
  • Overview
  • Double Agent
  • Double Vision
  • Out

  • Ping Pong
  • Runaway Pistol
  • So Close
  • Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

  • Previous years' festivals
  • When Korean Cinema Attacks! (2001)
  • Asian Films Are Go! (2002)

  • Official site
  • Combining the talents of Hong Kong star Tony Leung, outstanding American actor David Morse ("Dancer in the Dark," "The Slaughter Rule"), director Chen Guofu and actress Rene Liu of "The Personals," the Taiwanese film shoplifts shamelessly from "The X-Files" — from story premise to character traits to sound effects — but there are worse places to go pinching your plot.

    Here's the setup: A business executive is found physiologically frozen to death at his desk in the sweltering Taipei summer. A woman frantically calls the fire department because she thinks her apartment is in flames — when authorities arrive they find no evidence of fire but her body shows every sign of having burned to death. I've seen this one before, but it's still a seductive premise — what the hell is going on here?

    Double Vision  
    It falls to Huang Huotu (Leung), a hard-nosed detective with a troubled past, to figure that out. The department also brings in FBI serial-murder expert Kevin Richter from Quantico to help with this unorthodox case. It's never an easy fit. The Taipei officers resent Richter's attempts to run the case himself, and Huang pushes him to consider the case's supernatural connections to Taoist mysticism.

    "Look, I rely on science — not talismans, not good-luck charms," says the American.

    "What's wrong with you, Mr. Richter?" Huang responds. "All your years in the FBI, you have never encountered with a demon before?"

    More bodies turn up with mysterious ritual mutilations, and the victims' hallucinatory last moments are traced to a bizarre microorganism they've inhaled — a "hybrid life form" the likes of which FBI scientists have never seen before. Where this organism came from, who is inflicting it on the victims and why, are part of the mystery for our Mulder/Scully-like heroes to unravel at their own peril.

      Morse's attempts to say "thank you" invariably come out as a question — "thank you?" — or, worse, something along the lines of "thank yo' mama," and the character can never figure out why everybody's snickering at him.
    "Double Vision" has a few shortcomings, to be sure. In particular, although the conspiracy and its sinister purpose are memorably revealed, one loose end that's neglected is the why it chose certain victims. The story would have felt a little more complete if this piece of the puzzle had fit together.

    Also, like his character, Morse — who is probably included more for international saleability than logical necessity — seems slightly at sea amid the Chinese-speaking cast. He has some trouble interacting with his castmates when they're speaking Chinese, and even struggles with Leung, whose English is a bit spotty. Morse's most natural moments are when he just ignores the people around him and acts on autopilot. But at least the filmmakers have a little fun with this issue. As a running joke, Morse tries out some basic phrasebook Chinese on the locals, but his attempts to say "thank you" invariably come out as a question — "thank you?" — or, worse, something along the lines of "thank yo' mama," and he can never figure out why everybody's snickering at him.

    Double Vision  
    Like a pretty good "X-Files" episode, "Double Vision" offers grisly supernatural visions, characters who meet grippingly mysterious demises, geekily earnest arguments between the rational partner and the irrational partner, characters with a bit of depth and traumatic pasts, and a gripping payoff at the end. If it seems a little bit imitative, it also comes at the formula from a different direction — that of the Hong Kong detective genre overlayed with eastern mysticism (however authentic or inauthentic). Ultimately it's a piece of escapism, but a smart and involving one.

    APRIL 17, 2003

    Reader comments on Double Vision:

  • 1 and the half thumbs-up!   from tautze, Jul 11, 2004
  • Not a bad film actually   from Al Lee, Nov 24, 2004
  • Excellent Thriller/Scri-Fi Film   from Art in LA, Apr 23, 2005

  • Post a comment on "Double Vision"