Imagine this. You’ve just met someone for the first time and you’ve discovered you have a lot of things in common. You both know Jim who works in the bowling alley, and you both like prawn toast. Things are going well, until your interlocutor suddenly starts talking about rabbits. There wasn’t any reason for them to just mention rabbits suddenly like that; and now they’re starting to talk about them all the time: how they’re watching, pawing the ground lightly, having conferences in rabbit sign-language. Something tells you you should probably leave the party when your companion suddenly slips a huge carrot out of their pocket and starts to examine it with furious intensity.
Divergence is a typically convoluted action thriller in the style’as the marketing bumf doesn’t hesitate to point out twice’of Infernal Affairs. Aaron Kwok (The Storm Riders ‘ no, I haven’t seen The Storm Riders either) plays Suen, your average renegade cop with a dead girlfriend and a wardrobe comprised of a single check shirt.
Benny Chan injects a lot of visual flair, and the film by and large has a fresh and vibrant look, but the choppiness of certain sections is entirely unsatisfying: it’s just hard to get a foothold. The acting is generally strong despite this, though, with Daniel Wu’s arrogant, free-wheeling assassin often stealing the show. The hysterical editing, which largely serves to make the entire film look like a trailer, is complemented by a fairly silly plot involving doppelg’ngers, coincidence, intrigue and, at one point, the gloriously incorrect subtitle, ‘Police Headquarter’.
So, everything is bowling along fairly pleasantly until the film suddenly becomes completely and utterly barking. It just flips out.
If I told you that Kwok and Wu are fighting in a fish market after a chase scene, and (SPOILER!) Wu puts a plastic bag over Kwok’s head to suffocate him, you probably wouldn’t bat too much of an eyelid. ‘Oh,’ you’d say, ‘that’s nothing. I ‘ve seen Jackie Chan movies, I know about ludicrous film combat.’ If I then told you that the bag stays on Kwok’s head for the majority of the scene, you might raise a rakish eyebrow above that unbatted eyelid. If I then told you that the scene continues with Kwok putting a plastic bag over Wu’s head, and attempting to suffocate him, whilst still wearing his own bag, your eyebrow’s lateral counterpart might join it in a state of erection.
What, I ask, will you do with your eyebrows when you attempt to assimilate the information that Kwok’s character ends the scene in a dream sequence where he hallucinates riding on a merry-go-round with his aforementioned dead girlfriend, who announces her pregnancy and then turns into a small plume of bubbles?
That’s not the end of it. The sheer daftness of the sequence in which Kwok sobs pathetically into a hotdog while a surging love theme from composer Anthony Chue wells up underneath him is matched only by The Car Scene, which is comprised of Kwok allowing his car to roll backwards down a hill into incoming traffic whilst inexplicably opening and closing his mouth like a goldfish, all set to a cue which I can only describe as ‘comedy ballet music’.
What’s going on? If a film sets out to evoke a certain tension, which Divergence certainly does (yes, an opening scene in which Kwok has to take a large fat man to visit the toilet might not necessarily flag this up from the outset), why is it constantly undermining itself in this thoroughly bizarre manner? The maudlin whinging about Suen’s girlfriend coupled with this kind of nonsensical unintentional comedy means that the film is utterly out of emotional kilter. There’s so little to be said for this kind of haphazard writing and direction.
There’s equally little to be said about the absolutely endless advertising for Nokia which this film perpetrates. Every character has a Nokia phone of some kind, pretty much the whole range is covered and shot in loving close-ups. I’m not exaggerating ‘ it just makes precisely no sense.
While Divergence is at its best doing action, everything is a little overwrought and under-evolved. It’s all been done better before, and Benny Chan can’t solve that problem just by filming everything from underneath, or upside down, or with a handheld camera. This film needs to be stripped of its frills and rebuilt from the ground up, but something tells me the task is hopeless.
It comes down to this: don’t watch this movie, even though it has good points, and even though some of it is utterly crazy. If you want craziness, watch the David Hasselhof sci-fi show which was on TV just now (Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD). If you want taut ‘Asian action’ (sorry) rent some Park Chan-wook movies, or even a Benny Chan movie which isn’t this. Divergence never quite shakes its slight straight-to-video air, and it’s simply not worth your time.
‘Where is Bruce Lee?’ asks a character at one point. Where indeed?