90s Far East Bracket: Fai Seung Dat Yin (Expect The Unexpected, 1998)

The second film in my fifth match-up in the first round of the 90s Far East Bracket certainly lives up to its English title!

Written By: Yin Han Chow, Kam-Yuen Szeto & Nai-Hoi Yau
Directed By: Tat-Chi Yau

As the pre-review snippet alludes to, Fai Seung Dat Yin certainly lives up to its English title of Expect The Unexpected. I don’t know, however, if that is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand it’s a welcome change of pace to sit through a film and have little clue as to what will happen next. On the other hand it’s a hard movie watching experience when a film never feels like a whole, but instead a series of events that have very little to do with each other.

In what is a trend in some Asian cinema, Hong Kong/Korea in particular, the idea of genre isn’t given much credence. I like that way of thinking, I have written many times in this very blog about my love of films that shuck the standard genre labels and identifiers to the side. That shucking isn’t enough on its own, and that is where films such as Fai Seung Dat Yin lose their stride in the “We don’t need any stinking genres parade.” Blending genres can and does work quite often, but the world you create still needs to flow and feel real. I couldn’t shake the feeling when watching Fai Seung Dat Yin that I was in two separate worlds, one where a romantic love story was happening and another where a brutal cop drama was taking place. At some point those two worlds needed to meet and coexist, sadly this didn’t happen until the final moment of Fai Seung Dat Yin and even then I don’t know if that actually happened as much as I was at that moment in a state of shock.

The idea of shock is another realm in which Fai Seung Dat Yin sort of works but also sort of doesn’t. Many a time I was pulled out of what was happening on screen because it was a “shocking” event that I didn’t quite buy. I don’t mean shocking in an “OMG, that guys arm was just chopped off,” sort of way, even though the film does deliver that type of shock from time to time. When I speak of shocking I am talking more about a benign conversation between two people being interrupted by a joke out of nowhere or a joke session being cut off by a heavily dramatic moment. At the same time I found myself drawn to many of these same moments, and in that way I am vexed by Fai Seung Dat Yin. Clearly the “pull me out of the world,” vibe didn’t work for me but at others times I found that it did. Very, very confusing.

One aspect of Fai Seung Dat Yin that consistently delivered were the chase scenes and gun fights. Not only did they have a severe level of harshness to them, but they were shot differently than most modern action movies. Lacking were the multiple cuts and rapid fire editing. Instead Fai Seung Dat Yin relied on single takes, or longer takes as the case may be, with wide angle shots of the action and the chases. If I wasn’t able to enjoy Fai Seung Dat Yin in any other way then at the very least I can let you know that it was exciting and featured some dynamic craftsmanship during the action scenes.

I wanted to like Fai Seung Dat Yin more than I did, I loved what it was trying to accomplish. Alas, the failures outweighed the successes and while I enjoyed stretches of the movie I spent more time hoping that the two worlds would bleed into each other. There’s a word that I want to use to finish off my thoughts on Fai Seung Dat Yin, and that word is scattershot. I could never shake the feeling that not only was I a bit lost in my viewing of Fai Seung Dat Yin, but the characters in the world of the film were a bit lost themselves and that’s because the movie was all over the pace in trying to be what you wouldn’t expect that it could never come together as a single entity.




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