So on Tuesday, I got the privilege to catch my first indie feature from Hong Kong. Seeing a title like Doomsday Party, one would think it might involve doomsday, or there might be a party. Well, I was wrong on both accounts. Doomdsday Party is more doom, and less party. Don’t get me wrong, this is quite an interesting feature, but one of the few selects at DIFF I’ve had trouble seeking my teeth into.
The film involves a string of characters all shuffling elements in their lives during the economic crisis. The characters consist of a college student named Lang who has a talent for making explosives; A troubled young girl who the college student rescues from a gang; a banker boyfriend name Victor Lo who is dishonest and unfaithful to his girlfriend; His girlfriend Luk Wan Lee, who is troubled by a love triangle she has between her, and her ex boyfriend officer Kin-Ho; A teacher that feels betrayed by society and his student who cheated him out of money; And finally a city politician Ho Chung and his mistress Rebecca during a campaign. All these characters face challenges within their lives and with the world around them until their world’s collide during a bank robbery.
The film does a well enough job of juggling these peoples stories, but still drops the ball in places. Some character motivations are crystal clear, while others seem blurry in the mix of things. For example, the teacher’s young girl student is shown as jumping off a building killing herself, but it’s unclear why. Sure, he was screwed out of money, but why would that cause a little girl to take her own life? Another nitpick of mine is the character Lang could have been fleshed out more as well. In the beginning, he’s already a bomb expert, but we don’t know he got interested in making them, or how he learned.
My biggest issue with Doomsday Party, is the pacing issues. They have a solid finale, which is tense and somewhat unpredictable. The issue though, is it takes an extremely long time to get there. Through these character’s emotional journey, the scenes are sometimes long winded and heavy-handed on the melodrama. Some scenes could’ve been cut tighter to make room for others to get fleshed out more. All that aside, for a director’s first film, it shows potential for improvement in the future.
As much as I hate to say it though, I didn’t like Doomsday Party much at all. It tries really hard to balance all the characters in these film, but fails in many areas, making it tough to care by the time the finale begins. You’re supposed to feel something when you’re main cast lives or dies, but you don’t at all. One moment lacked any investment as they see them laying lifelessly, and to me that’s a huge error in the writing development.
As I said though, it’s not a bad film by any means, just not a great one. There is strong potential here, and director Ho Hong is just at the start of his career. The film looked fantastic, with great photography, and the actors were solid in their respective roles. I think the best thing for Ho Hong is to take on something more simple in his next project, and not to cram it with so many arcs to flesh out. Some of the best films I’ve seen from Japan have centered around single or even two different characters. No need to overload if you don’t have to.