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Koma (DVD)

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Genre: Horror / Theatrical Release: 2004 / Director: Lo Chi-Leung / Actors: Karena Lam, Lee Sinje ... / DVD released 26 September, 2005 at Tartan Video / Features of the DVD: PAL

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      28.09.2006 12:26
      Very helpful
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      Gory, but stimulating

      Most of the Hong Kong films I have seen in the past involved triads, gun-running and car chases done on the cheap. So I was intrigued by the idea of a film about human organ trading - directed by Lo Chi-Leung, it seemed a little bit different and covers a subject that is of great concern in the Far East . It was also clear from the moment that the film started that the quality of the film was high and I was quickly drawn into the story.

      The plot
      Ching, a young girl with renal failure, is desperately waiting for a new kidney. One day, after attending a wedding, she walks into her bathroom to find the body of a badly mutilated woman. The police later tell her that the woman had had a kidney removed, then had been placed in a bath full of ice in which she had woken up to see a notice telling her to call the police or she would die. Unfortunately, in the process of trying to reach the phone, she doesn't make it.

      Terrified by her experience, Ching is then plagued by a series of phone calls telling her that someone is coming for her kidney. She is convinced that it is a friend of her boyfriend, Wai, a girl called Ling. Strangely, the two girls eventually become good friends and Ching, becoming sicker, relies more and more on Ling. But is Ling all that she seems? And just what is her relationship with Wai?

      The characters/actors
      Angelica Lee plays the role of Ching. I was very impressed by her acting skills. Initially, she came across as being a silly young girl playing the role of a silly young girl, but as the role developed and the boundaries of her skills were pushed further and further back, it was clear that she was far more than just a pretty face. She runs through the whole gamut of emotions - fear, anger, sympathy, love and aggression, all of which were done expertly.

      The role of Ling is played by Karena Lam. Her role is much more po-faced than Lee's and she has much less of an opportunity to show off her acting. This is deliberate, because the audience is supposed to be kept in the dark as to whether she is good or bad. All this makes it more difficult to judge her skills, but certainly she did a good job of the role that she was given.

      In comparison to the two girls, Ching's boyfriend, Wai's role is much smaller. Again, it is not clear whether he is trustworthy or not - every time he seems to have proved that he is to be trusted, he does something that proves he isn't. He didn't get much of a chance to show off, but he did a good job of keeping me guessing.

      Technical bits

      Classification: 15. By today's standards, this is about right, although there is a fair amount of violence and gory bits.

      Running time: 84 minutes

      Conclusion
      I thought this film was pretty good. The plot was well developed - right from the first scenes, I found it hard to take my eyes from the screen and the creepy atmosphere was built up very well. There was very little given away about how the film was going to end; I was certainly surprised. I also felt that the film seemed fresh and original, partly because of the subject area, which is not a topic often covered in Western films, but also because of the direction; it is a relief to watch a film with a non-Hollywood slant on it.

      The film is in Cantonese, but the subtitles were excellent. There is a lot of action, which lessens the need for subtitles; but anyway, I would have found it difficult to take my eyes off the screen even if I hadn't needed to read the subtitles.

      As many Far East Asian directors seem to do so well, the cinematography was excellent. There were a number of shots taken from odd angles, which added beautifully to the confusion of the film.

      There is little to criticise in this film. It is perhaps a little shorter than it could have been, but the length didn't really bother me all that much. The only reason that I am giving it four stars rather than five is that I borrowed a Korean film, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, also about the trade in human organs, and in comparison with that, this film didn't quite cut it. However, I still recommend this film to anyone who enjoys thrillers.

      I watched the film version, but the DVD is available from play.com for £7.99.

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    • Product Details

      Awarded 'Outstanding New Director' at the 2003 Hong Kong Film Awards, director Law Chi-Leung hits the screen with crime thriller 'Koma', casting award-winning actresses Angelica Lee and Karena Lam in the lead roles. Behind the glitter and glamour of a wedding reception held at a luxurious hotel on a stormy evening, a horrid crime was committed. The police had yet to find a way to track down the perpetrator. Their only lead, the lone eyewitness at the scene, was bridesmaid Chi Ching (Angelica Lee). Chi Ching recognized the suspect, Suen Ling (Karena Lam), the moment she was shown close circuit camera footage at the police station. At the identification parade, she not only identified Suen but also discovered the affair between this stranger and her lover. All of a sudden the emotional turmoil surrounding her chronic illness, which had for years been plaguing her and her lover, resurfaced and quickly grew beyond control. Ching's curious connection with the suspect left the police with no choice but to turn elsewhere for clues. Meanwhile Ching became the target of a vicious assault, and it was Suen who came to her rescue. Grateful, Ching learned to embrace the presence of the person to whom she had once lost her lover and, now, owed her life. Ching and Suen play a game of victim and victimiser until they can no longer tell the two identities apart.