It is the norm in film to have one director, applying their creative vision to projects solely, though it has been known to work well with two, most notably with siblings such as the Dardenne or Coen brothers. In Hong Kong based crime thriller Trivisa, there’s not one or two, but three directors at the helm. Frank Hui, Jevon Au and Vicky Wong put their heads together collaborate with a team of three screenwriters to bring a story based on real life gangsters to the big screen. Set in the 1997 Hong Kong underbelly, Kwai Ching-hung (Gordon Lam), Yip Kwok-foon (Richie Fon) and Cheuk Tse-keung (Jordan Chan) are unconnected gangsters who happen to be spotted in the same restaurant on the same night. This leads to speculation that they have formed an unlikely alliance, planning one big deal ahead of the handover of sovereignty from the UK to China.
With a mass of characters to be introduced to, we are thrust sharply into dialogue heavy scenes in order to establish the backgrounds of our three key mobsters. The conversations come at a near supersonic speed and the pacing makes it quite difficult to keep up the subtitles as well as the series of events, which already seem complicated. The trio of stories are delivered separately but are intertwined and edited together, and this adds to an incoherent narrative and inconsistent tone. I enjoyed the strand focused around Kwai though, who visits a former associate and his young daughter to keep a low profile as he plots a robbery, using different pseudonyms to hide from local authorities. These scenes see the film at its strongest, and create moments of real tension as he tries to keep his criminal plans under wraps.
Aesthetically impressive cinematography and tightly woven action-sequences work to Trivisa’s benefit, but the story feels too convoluted to have any meaningful impact. With an array of new-wave filmmaking individuals on board, it is simply a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, or the wonton soup in this case if you will. The acclaimed producer of the project Johnnie To clearly still has a handle on the genre he is thought of so highly in, and the directors each show talent in the field, but would benefit from a clearer narrative and less collaborators in order to create a more engaging, cinematic experience.