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CIFF 2014 review – Fallen City

Saturday 20th, September 2014 / 20:25
By Philip Clarke

Five years after robbing a bank and getting away with it, a thief returns home to find his young daughter. What should have been an easy reuniting for the criminal is put on hold by the same cop who tried to catch him years ago. They encounter each other at long last and the chase begins through the crowded and narrow streets. That is, until the tables are turned and the city falls into chaos by an earthquake.

Fallen City is the debut film from director Huang Hong and it’s nothing short of a disappointment. Hong who also wrote the film sets up a very intriguing premise, but then does very little with it to keep the interest going throughout its relatively short 92-minute run time.

The biggest issue that the film encounters is that of a maddeningly inconsistent tone. The film is perforated with death and destruction, and then overly cartoony characters that keep playing running gags that feel awkward and uncomfortable only moments later. There’s a scene involving fingers getting crushed and the character in question has to forcefully yank the rest of his mangled and gory hand out of the destruction. It’s a gut-churning scene along the same lines as the infamous one from 127 Hours, but then devolves into a comedy routine not long after and therefore dilutes any kind of potential dramatic impact.

By having too many unnecessarily comedic moments in the film, the more serious moments fall flat, because there’s never really any kind of consistency built up in regards to dread or tension which is where the film should have excelled. Instead of playing to its supposed narrative strengths, the few qualities that the film does possess are drowned out by an overly dramatic musical score that’s jarring to say the least. Even more jarring than that, however, is the increasingly irritating and entirely unneeded love interest for the main character that seemingly shrieks every single line of her dialogue no matter what situation is going on.

Fallen City has a great concept for a cat and mouse thriller between a bank robber and the doggedly determined cop that will stop at nothing to catch him. Then again, I liked it better when it was called Heat.

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