Birds cannot testify in court and a man crawls like a cat in Andrew Fung’s excellent whodunnit.
“A good guy can also commit crimes.”
Three months ago, a band of criminals robbed a jewellery store, unaware that one of their own was an undercover cop. It didn’t take long for everything to go awry and within seconds an old lady has died of a heart attack, a retail assistant’s spine has been fractured and the undercover cop is killed. A lack of evidence keeps the criminals, including Sean Wong (Louis Koo), out of prison. But in the present day, one of these thieves is found dead in his apartment, a bag of jewels stolen. The only witness? A parrot.
Part-time cat enthusiast and full-time detective Larry Lam (Louis Cheung) and his partner Charmaine (Cherry Ngan) are assigned to the case by their superior Yip (Philip Keung at his most wide-eyed) who believes that Wong is the culprit and is killing off his associates one by one. There are scant other suspects, only the victims from the robbery, but Lam is convinced that Wong is innocent of the murders and his investigations begin to irk Yip, who Lam secretly suspects. Meanwhile, Wong hides out in a rented room, where he befriends the landlady Joy (Jessica Hsuan) and conducts his own investigation.
In A Witness Out of the Blue there are a lot of moving pieces, at least at first. Introducing us to the police, Wong and his former gang, and the many victims of the crimes gives the first act of the film something of a top-heavy quality – the sort that can often cause a story like this to collapse. Thankfully things begin to straighten out once characters start interacting with one another more (and others start getting killed off). It’s a lot to take in at first but the result is a murder mystery plot with more meat on its bones and so with more potential.
Andrew Fung does well in the delivery of this mystery, too. While it lacks the edge that other movies in Hong Kong’s excellent repertoire of thrillers might have, it still manages to deliver in just about every aspect required of the genre: tense music, believable character motivations, a minor gimmick to make it stand out (in this case the parrot) and plenty of atmosphere. The only other movie of his I’ve seen has been 2013’s The Midas Touch which, while entertaining in its own way didn’t really have a voice of its own – ironic, really, considering the subject matter.
In Witness, Fung ups his game considerably and uses deliberate pauses and moments of visual minimalism combined with larger, louder scenes of action to keep us engaged and guessing throughout. Mixed in are scenes of Wong interacting with Joy and the old people she shares her house with, which offers a charming respite from the grimdark police stuff. Suffice to say that A Witness Out of the Blue might be shallow in places, but it’s nonetheless a very entertaining mystery crime thriller, and sometimes that’s all you really need. That and a couple of parrot-heavy dream sequences.
Verdict: With its parrot-heavy premise A Witness Out of the Blue could have been awful, but its solid story is bolstered by a good cast and some top-notch filmmaking.
Overall entertainment: 8/10
Whodunnit Satisfaction: 7.5/10
Title: Surely it should be Blue, Out of the Witness?
Louis Koo: Does not suit a beard
Clichés: If you’re not handing in your badge and gun at one point, are you even a cop?
How to get in to a club of which you’re not a member: Just keep slapping people till they let you use the phones
A Witness Out of the Blue (2019)
Also known as: 犯罪现场
Director: Andrew Fung
Writer: Andrew Fung
Louis Koo – Sean Wong
Louis Cheung – Larry Lam
Jessica Hsuan – Joy Ting
Cherry Ngan – Charmaine Hui
Philip Keung – Yip Sau-ching
Fiona Sit – Cindy Yeung
Patrick Tam – Bull Yiu
Andy On – Tony Ho
Ling Man-lung – Redhead
Sam Lee – Au-yeung
Evergreen Mak – Crab
Power Chan – Donkey
Tsui Kwong-lam – Uncle Monk