The Saviour (1980)
Reviewed by: j.crawford on 2005-07-29
Summary: .young director pays tribute to stylistic influences.
Inspector Tom is one cool dude. HK's equal to Dirty Harry Callahan, he's lean, he's mean and he's willing to walk the line between the law and the lawless. When he's not doing in the bad guys, he spends his off duty hours with his foster son. In his 2nd directorial effort, Ronnie Yu has created a visually stunning action-thiller.

Stylistically, the film is a tribute to the works of Alfred Hitchcock. Borrowing heavily from "Frenzy"[1972] and "Psycho"[1960], director Yu weaves the tale of Tom's search for a deranged killer of prostitutes. When one is killed by her john, we learn that this is the third such crime. The Inspector is in trouble with his boss ala "Dirty Harry"[1971] and is assigned a new partner. The humorous sidekick, 19 [that is what Tom calls him], is the sixth one Tom has had. Four are dead, one is paralyzed. Does that sound familiar?

The best part of the movie is the way director Yu develops the character of the sexually repressed murderer named Paul. At first, he is only shown from behind or in shadow. Later he is yelled at by his father, a retired triad boss, and bad memories are set off. When he was 10 years old, his mother committed suicide in front of him after he witnessed his dad enjoying a prostitute in the family home. With each murder more graphic and gruesome than the next, Paul finally meets one girl who kicks his ass and fends him off. Even with a positive ID, Inspector Tom can't hold him. With the help of his father, and his gangland connections, the killer goes free; though not for long. In the States we call it entrapment, but in the rest of the world, the police can use any means possible to get the bad guys. With the help of a beautiful woman, Tom lays a trap for the killer. She starts up a relationship with Paul and the bait is ultimately taken.

It is always good when a young director is able to make a film and pay tribute to his or her stylistic influences. Based on a story by Ronnie Yu, the screenplay by Cheung Kin Ting keeps the action moving. Besides Hitchcock and early Eastwood, the director also pays homage to the whole film noir genre. "The Saviour" is a dark film, beautifully photographed by Tony Hope. This early work by one of Hong Kong's most prominent directors shows the promise of good things to come.

This review originally appeared in Asian Cult Cinema #12

Copyright © 1996 J.Crawford
Reviewer Score: 9