Color of Pain (2002)

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 07/16/2005

A well-written script goes awry in pre-production when film makers have to take Japanese funding to get their movie made. What could have been an excellent Hong Kong movie becomes symbolic of what is wrong with Hong Kong movies these days. Lack of production money in the SAR has local producers seeking funding from neighboring Asian film markets, which brings location shooting in the new co-producers country and casting of non-Hong Kong actors in major roles.

Writer, producer, director Sam Leong does outstanding work here. Performances by Tony Ho, Terence Yin, and Sam Lee as young jewel thieves are well worth the price of admission. Raymond Wong shines as troubled SDU officer. Performance of Josie Ho is great, as well. These five actors never seem to disappoint in anything they do and they make this film go.

A major flaw is casting of Japanese Kenya Sawada in a role that was probably written for Ekin Cheng. Kenya Sawada is all over the place and never really nails the role. He's trying to act like Ekin doing the character, which is kind of cool to watch I guess. Action sequences by Adam Chan are well done, very tense and exciting. Check this movie out, you won't be unhappy.

copyright 2005 j.crawford

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 02/13/2003

This movie is pretty pointless, but it's still cool. Plot twists, gunplay, intensity, modern action, it's all here. Like most recent movies (1998-), Color of Pain does not take the typical police/crime story approach, since the genre has lost some popularity and may be getting a bit old. The plot is very eccentric, and some camera work/editing are very untraditional as well. The worst thing about this movie might be the fact that more than once, the good guy would help his enemy kill the good guy's friend. Not sure if they were intentional, but surely bothersome they are.


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 04/14/2002
Summary: Interesting

Assassins are great! Or great movie material anyway - I'm sure there have been more movie assassins than there have ever been real world assassins, and the average assassin 'cool' score is probably vastly lower in RL than movies. Still, there's something about the life of the assassin/hitman that seems to fascinate viewers the world over. Something about the lawlessness == freedom that we secretly wish we had in our lives? Or just that they look cool in leather pants?

Our assassin for this outing is Kenya Sawada, a top Japanese hitman who travels to HK for a job. He hits his target, but takes a bullet himself... stuck right in his head, poor man. For reasons not entirely clear, this sends him on some kind of mad-adrenalin craving. First he gets caught up in a bank robbery pulled off by our goons Terence Yin, Sam Lee & Tony Ho... then decides he wants to join their gang for capers because he 'likes the feeling'.

Maybe he was always such an adrenalin-junkie, it's not clear... but the whole bullet in the head part of the story must have some relevance to what happens, so I assume this is it.

The movie is a Japanese-HK co-production, and suffers from the new modern plague of multi-national dialogue. Our motley crew of Sawada & co seem to drop between Japanese, Cantonese and English pretty much at random... seems like everybody understands each other whatever language they speak in. The English dialogue is awful, but the characters aren't meant to be oxford grads or anything so I don't see it as a problem.

The script is pretty interesting and creative, if not completely coherent at times, and the movie has some very creative cinematography that occasionaly wanders towards Wong Kar-Wai territory. Kenya Sawada is cool as all hell, and a great fighter for an old guy - hope to see more of him in future. Terence Yin is definitely a good looking man, but if he doesn't get that sleazy sneer off his face (and the goatee stubble whilst he's there) I shall have to stop buying movies with him in. Tony Ho is the standout of the gang, putting in a really good performance. Raymond Wong the younger gives a good performance on the opposite side of the law too.

Definitely quite an interesting movie, and one of the better offerings in the genre of recent years, though still nothing close to classic status in the context of Hong Kong's assassin-movie history. If they'd taken this movie and Fulltime Killer and merged the best bits together they would have had something really great though... maybe Disney can work their editing magic and give us the remixed version for Christmas .

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 03/16/2002

This movie apparently didn't have much of a box office impact in HK theatres, seeing how quickly the DVD was released. Surprising, because I thought this was a rather well made action movie with a fresh script, production values that were fairly high despite a limited budget, and overall giving the impression of not having been haphazardly thrown together like so many other low-budget quickies but rather having been assembled with attention to details such as music soundtrack etc.

It's the story of a professional Japanese killer who runs into some resistance during his latest assassination and after the ensuing shootout, ends up with a bullet in his head. He survives, but with this constant and at times quite painful reminder of the price of violence permanently lodged deep inside his brain, he changes his outlook on life. In fact, the only thing that keeps him from turning suicidal are the adrenaline rushes he gets from extreme situations. He begins to seek out danger and approaches it as if he didn't care about his life, and maybe he doesn't. While doing so, he gets involved with a group of criminals in HK, and makes friends with a young cop and former SDU sniper who can't get over the fact he accidentally shot a fellow officer. Of course the cop gets assigned to the unit investigating the Japanese guy and his gang.

What follows is the familiar mix between heist scenes, chases, shootouts and fisticuffs, interlaced with fast cars and big guns and driven by underlying themes of friendship, betrayal and revenge. Much of this feels fresh, in particular a robbery in the middle of the film that takes a few unexpected turns. The supporting actors are first class, including Terence Yin (how does this guy manage to appear so repulsive time and again?), Lam Suet in a small role, Sam Lee doing his comical relief routine in a subdued fashion, and Josie Ho as the generic tough female inspector. The leads are less impressive: the fella playing the young cop is somewhat bland, and Kenya Sawada is hampered by language and appears for the most part like a Japanese Ekin Cheng (same hair, same facial paralysis).

The movie is not a classic, but after a rather slow start it offers enjoyable entertainment, some fresh takes of stale genre cliches and even the semblance of what could have been deeper layers of meaning. And the action scenes are uniformly well done. Not spectacular or highly innovative, but a testament to solid craftsmanship. The film made me kind of lean back at the end and say to myself: "Now why doesn't Milkyway do films like this anymore?".

Recommended. The DVD is adequate. Good transfer, DTS soundtrack.