The Peeping (2002)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2010-03-19
Summary: For Voyeurs
“The Peeping” is a political thriller uneasily mixed with softcore pornography, essentially a mystery with a twist ending interrupted by scenes of extremely attractive people simulating sex; often but not always in very dark sets that kept the naughty bits properly obscured. Teresa Mak and Grace Lam were in two other films together, “Electrical Girl” and “Tortured Sex Goddesses of the Ming Dynasty” in which they were the actresses who kept their clothes on. Here they eagerly throw off their clothes and jump into bed while being watched on the cameras of surveillance expert Wu's cameras--the images are being watched very closely by Wu in an apartment down the hall. This is a genre that has been done often but not always well. Roger Donaldson’s “No Way Out” is a good example of one that worked; “Enemy of the State” by Jerry Bruckheimer, with explosions substituted for sex scenes is one that did not.

The non-libidinal action in “The Peeping” is driven by the rough and tumble of Taiwanese political life. Teresa Mak is a rising councilor who is being opposed by a Triad boss who is also a political heavyweight and who needs to get damaging information on him since simply slapping around a political opponent while the news cameras are running is nothing new or scandalous in the political life of the island. Daniel Wu is a typical sleazeball gumshoe in Hong Kong—think of Gene Hackman in “The Conversation” or John Travolta in “Blow Out”—who specializes in video eavesdropping. We first see him planting tiny cameras in the house where an industrialist has installed a mistress, both of whom become unwitting stars of his latest work. Next he shows the tape to the industrialist’s wife, collects his fee and wonders where his next case will come from.

It comes from Taiwan when Grace Lam shows up with an offer too good to be true but also too good to turn down—one million dollars (HK) for a couple of weeks of secret taping of a councilor who turns out to be Teresa Mak. His cameras almost immediately record Mak and Lam getting naked and pleasuring each other. It is an extraordinary sequence for fans of Teresa Mak (like me) and the high point of the film. Unfortunately it occurs about 20 minutes in so there is a long dreary slog to the end.

The political content to the movie is either dull and parochial or incomprehensible. Most the sex scenes are best watched with one’s thumb pressed against the fast forward button. The quadruple cross that wraps things up is predictable that the only surprise is that it goes on for as long as it does—this is a movie that would be served well by the way that so many Hong Kong films are ended; the action is over, run the credits. The final scene with Teresa Mak stumbling through a public apology to no one in particular is a coda that sums up nothing.

“The Peeping” is a fine movie for those with a desire to see Teresa Mak and Grace Lam show (almost) all of their charms but not of much use for anyone else. One warning—Mak suffers a horrific beating and rape, an extremely unpleasant scene although she does a good job of projecting the fear, pain and terror of a sexual assault victim.
Reviewer Score: 3