Scary as Couldn't Be
Expecting error correction in a business revolving around creative
control as the movies represents a very natural demand on the part of
consumers, albeit one seldom answered with a resounding round of true
Years post the HK film biz's first batch of pseudo-scary, rather lame
attempts at wooing people with wishy-washy ghost tales, the same
insipid shortcomings dominate. 49 Days places itself firmly in the
company of such mediocrity, demonstrating the case for how better
technology often fails in alleviating symptoms pertaining to simple
story and common sense.
In a vein similar to that of classics Ghost and The 6th Sense, 49 Days
relies chiefly on an interesting but obvious twist to bring it together
halfway through, in addition to deploying the requisite quota of
redundant, convoluted mysticism. Apparently it has something to do with
reincarnation and the dead coming back to sort things out in a given
timeframe, but the only such temporal restraint you'll be eager to
figure out is when the awful thing'll end at long last.
Eclipsing everyone else in the production, handsome Raymond Wong (Love
Undercover, The Lion Roars, PTU) delivers a wicked performance as
dual-purpose crony Pang Shi, starting proceedings one way, exiting in a
modest blaze of acting glory.
Pang Shi works with 1920's entrepreneur Lam Shing (Steven Fung), a
successful millionaire in an undisclosed city making his very honest
fortune selling traditional medicine a la Wong Fei Hung. Everything
goes well until one fine day Lam Shing's accused and convicted of a
crime he of course didn't commit. Languishing in the local crook
depository, only cadet attorney Siu Chin accepts the ignominious fate
of standing up for Lam Shing. She's executed by Twin Gillian Chung,
definitely one of the prettiest faces in the world of entertainment
today, but sadly not much more judging by this sad release. Chung's
character suffers from an over-sized portion of comic relief, plus
dabbles in lifting themes from My Cousin Vinnie.
Eventually the hapless duo arrange for Lam Shing's escape from
incarceration, and they manage to make it back to his homestead, now
eerily deserted like a disused Shaw Brothers lot. Here is where the
so-called horror element kicks in, but if this scares you please seek
professional help, you're in no shape to handle modern society. Amid
horrible voice-overs the fatigued story trudges on, with at least some
highlights shining through. Despite a conspicuously short legal-process
bit, the prison itself has some excellent imagery, and the movie
overall benefits from a technically polished veneer. And even though
the mood picks up somewhat after the prison break, its all for naught
as sentimental opportunities, including clearly useful ones like the
family reunion, are done poorly.
The latter part mainly consists of Lam Shing meeting his now-grown
daughter Ling Qi (newcomer Qiu Li Er), an addition passing for that
annoying, noisome little girl from everything following in the shaky
footsteps of over-hyped The Ring. There's then a lot of mumbo-jumbo
about fate and victims destined to act on their yuan fen, or
pre-scripted karma. Not the most revealing nor intriguing of prospects,
let us tell you, even though one of the instruments of this mechanism
is mostly impressive veteran Lawrence Mon, here both executioner and
protector, plus the guy taking it upon himself to clue the cast in to
what's going down in 49 Days.
Above other considerations, 49 Days takes its own sorry self too
seriously, producers' feeble attempts at humor bouncing off the
venerable armor of subparness like so much putty. Sure, certain moments
exhibit good graphic effects (particularly when we see magical candles
exposing the whereabouts of ghosts), and to their credit continuity
throughout retains a solidly consistent state.
Probably the biggest boon for most comes in the gorgeous form known as
Gillian, and believe you me its feels as cruel as it sounds saying
this. However, classy beauty like that doesn't come along too often,
and every chance to behold its magnificence has to be OK at the very
least, even if it's a vapid flick like this one.
49 Days misses hardly any fortuitous moment to strip itself of
remaining credibility, belonging in no tradition one could point to.
Pathetic action, laughable scares, all consolidate into a package even
Ace Ventura's take on UPS couldn't dent further.
It would be so easy to take the cynical route and come up with 49 flaws
here, but let's avoid that. Instead, here's hoping Gillian graces
another project as soon as possible, and this time perhaps one
requiring of more than just her cosmetic presence. As for 49 Days,
pretend you didn't see it. Boo.
Rating: * *
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