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Divergence

cast: Aaron Kwok, Daniel Wu, Ekin Cheng, Gallen Law, and Angelica Lee

director: Benny Chan

101 minutes (15) 2005 widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum Asia DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Three unique men; a cop still haunted by the decade-old disappearance of his girlfriend, a lawyer who specialises in defending white-collar criminals and an unusually curious assassin find themselves colliding over the disappearance of a millionaire's son.

Benny Chan's latest film is a strange hybrid of western and eastern in a story that is equal parts Hitchcock and Fincher. At the centre of it is Aaron Kwok as Suen, a deeply haunted, broken man who is apparently given a second chance when he begins investigating the disappearance. The wife of Counsellor To (Ekin Cheng) is the spitting image of his missing girlfriend although she claims not to know him. Investigating the case as much to be near her as anything else, Suen quickly crosses swords with Coke, already responsible for the death of a suspect in Suen's custody. Despite that, Coke finds himself fascinated by the policeman and his search and in turn finds himself drawn back into a contract that was completed years ago. In the meantime, To is forced to question both his own life and the choices of his client as he becomes ever more desperate to find his son.

This is an unusually character-driven thriller with Kwok's Suen being both the catalyst for events and a helpless observer of them. It's both a great role and a great performance, Kwok showing how this energetic, enthusiastic policeman has beaten down by personal tragedy. In a stunning sequence where he breaks down in tears and causes a multi-car pileup, it's Kwok you're watching instead of the cars. He's a deeply sympathetic, wounded man and whilst the sequence uses physical damage to show emotional damage to great effect, the image that stays with you is Kwok, prostrate on the ground, sobbing.

Ranged against him, Daniel Wu brings a predatory calm to the role of Coke. He's an intelligent, distant man who is calm where Suen is driven and curious where Suen is obsessive. In many ways, Coke is the second detective in the film, slowly uncovering events and beginning to realise the effect his actions have on others. He's also a fearsome physical presence and the two action sequences he shares with Kwok, one a chase down a motorway overpass and the other a fight in a fish market are the high points of the film's action.

Unfortunately, Cheng, Angelica Lee and Gallen Law fare less well, their characters pushed to the sidelines by the vast amounts of plot the film crams into it's running time. All are impressive and all deserve more screen time but in the end there's simply no room for them. It's the only failing of a movie which otherwise delivers an intelligent, gripping plot, memorable characters and some jaw-dropping action sequences.

Divergence is far more western-friendly than many of its compatriots, its plot owing as much to 24 as it does to the likes of Heroic Duo. Whilst it has failings, they're only because it tries to do too much instead of too little, and for that it's to be applauded. An exciting, unusual high-class thriller this is not to be missed.
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