Passionate Nights (1997)
Reviewed by: wyeeso on 2012-04-10
Summary: The truth hidden behind those masks
[Plot: 4/5]
Has anyone ever tell you not to judge people/incidents by their appearance? Well, you see, such phrase is not said without basis. If you care to think for a moment, you would realize we're all living in a society that requires everyone to be a two-face (or to hide things from the others) in order to survive. Now think about how you'll judge an incident. I bet you'll likely be tempted to believe what your eyes tell you even though there're more than one possibility to the truth. Being a two-face and judging by your eyes are both norms in the society, and those are the issues that "Passionate Nights" would like to share with its audiences.
The story begins with the protagonist, Liu Siu Suen (played by Pauline Chan), being under suspicion for murdering her husband, Ma Cho Fai (played by Wong Wei), to receive a huge amount of insurance. Judging from her attitude, her eagerness to collect the insurance, and the way how the vehicle dashes into the sea all of a sudden, the skeptical audiences are led to wonder if (or to believe) Siu Suen has really murdered her husband for money. But before we can get to the truth right away, a new mystery is introduced as soon as someone attempts to kill Siu Suen on several occasions. Yet, this new case appears to be difficult in finding a single suspect since most characters, especially the family from her husband's side, seem to hold a grudge against the protagonist for her cocky attitude and straightforward personality. And what makes the case even more difficult to solve is once it's been acknowledged that those who appear to be nice towards Siu Suen only act that way for their own advantage, anyone can have a reason to kill her. On the other hand, Siu Suen's lawyer, Yin (played by Fennie Yuen), also has her true intention to hide from her client. While she appears to be just gathering some information to help Siu Suen to collect her insurance, she's been asked by her superior and the insurance company, who don't want to pay Siu Suen a dime, to gather the evidences to prove that Siu Suen is the culprit responsible for her husband's death. So during the investigation, Yin gradually links everything together and discovers the truth behind Zou Fai's death, the painful story behind Siu Suen's mask, and the real motive behind the attackers.
I really enjoy watching the film in general, especially when it depicts how each character has something to hide from the world for whatever reasons. Yet, the story would be perfect if the story can avoid from being so rough and if some characters don't have to reveal their true identity so straightforwardly near the end. Furthermore, I think they should skip the ambiguous relationship/romance between Jet Li the bodyguard (played by Edmond Leung) and Siu Suen's step-daughter, Magaret Ma (played by Ada Choi), since it doesn't have much to do with the main plot.

[Actors: 2.5/5]
Most actors have done an average job. And since they don't have an outstanding performance, it's hard to give them compliments.
Nonetheless, I'll still talk a bit about Pauline Chan's performance. Her character is supposed to be bitchy, but I find her acting (including her bitchy tone) a bit unnatural and exaggerated, which I guess I can rationalize her poor performance based on the fact that her character is only pretending to be bitchy to protect herself. Still, I guess I was wrong, her performance in general appears to be unnatural and exaggerated despite her character is acting or not, although it's evidenced that her tone is less hostile after her character has revealed her true identity.

[The Production Crew:]
I've to admit I'm a bit surprised when I find out Ma Cho Fai has an affair with a guy named Tony (played by Bowie Lam). Actually, maybe not too surprising since this film is directed by Joe Hau, who has previous experiences in making homosexual-themed (ie. "Boy's?") and gender-themed (ie. "Right Here Waiting...") films. So it's only natural to find a bit of homosexual elements and lots of female characters in this film.
The art direction and filming for this film are a bit sloppy and lack esthetic sensibilities. For example, the part where Siu Suen and Yin are attacked by rolling barrels doesn't look/feel too thrilling. Same goes to the scene where the vehicle dashes into the sea in the beginning.
As for the casting, they should completely exclude actors such as Suki Kwan and Ng Ga-Fai since their roles aren't necessary and important.

[Memorable scene(s):]
There're some funny scenes in this film.
One is when Siu Suen visits a security company to hire a bodyguard, the manager (played by Spencer Lam) just wouldn't shut up in advertising his company.
The other one is when Jet Li secretly searches for Magaret around the Ma's mansion, he discovers some family members act weirdly when they are by themselves. For examples, he witnesses Magaret's mom (played by Gung Suet-Fa) sings Chinese opera; Siu Suen's servant (played by Hui Fan) does push up; and Magaret's grandma (played by Teresa Ha) combs her wig, like a ghost, in front of the mirror in the dark!

[Worth Watching A Second Time?]
The plot/concept is good, the actors' performance is average, and the filming is sloppy. I won't defy watching this film a second time, but currently I can't find a good reason to watch it again. Hopefully there'll be a remake in the future to make the general production much better than this.
Reviewer Score: 7