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Director Law Wing-cheong's 2011 thriller Punished, produced by Johnnie To, stars the mighty Anthony Wong as a man named Wong Ho-chiu, a wealthy industrialist type married to his wife (Maggie Cheung), whose wayward daughter, Daisy (Janice Man), has a bit of a drug problem. When Daisy is kidnapped and held for ransom, Wong isn't so sure she hasn't set this up herself in order to extort some drug money out of her old man. Caring more about his reputation than for his daughter's own life, he opts to get the fifty million dollars that the kidnappers have asked for ready so that he can get her back safely and without causing any controversy and heads, alone and without the accompaniment of his bodyguard, Chor (Richie Ren), to meet the kidnappers at the arranged meeting place. Here he gets a call and is told to drive somewhere else with his top down, at which point the drop is made when a passing motorcyclist grabs the bag out of the car - but he doesn't get his daughter in return.
Meanwhile, his bodyguard has been doing some investigating of his own and after following some clues and tracking down some suspects, manages to find Daisy, dead and buried. He leads Wong there at which point he snaps. He has his daughters corpse cremated and tells anyone who might notice she's missing that she's travelled to the United States - and then, with Chor's help, sets out to catch her murders and kill them.
A decent enough thriller in its own right, Punished isn't the flat out nasty revenge film that the cover art would like you to believe. Sure, it's plenty gritty enough but almost (though not all) of the violence takes place off screen and lets your imagination do the heavy lifting instead of handing it over to you on a plate. A fairly thick atmosphere of tension and dread help to make and keep things interesting and Law Wing-cheong is clever enough behind the camera to ensure that the film moves along at a good pace, even when the emphasis shifts from Wong's revenge scheme and Chor's execution of that same scheme to the more contemplative side of the story. Anthony Wong is rock solid in the lead role here, playing his character with just the right amount of resentment, anger, sadness and regret needed to make the part work. Also noteworthy is Richie Ren as Chor, a fairly brutal man whose loyalty to his boss is seemingly unshakeable. As such, Wong has no qualms whatsoever about sending him out into the streets to hunt and kill his daughter's murders, and even goes so far as to have Chor send him video footage of the acts on his smartphone.
By resisting the temptation to bombard us with gore and brutal violence, the film allows us to get into Wong's head a little bit more and appreciate his performance for what it is. There's that aforementioned sense of regret surrounding his character, and we know that he knows that if he'd maybe focused on his daughter a little more and on his real estate holdings a little less, she might not have followed the path she did which inevitably lead to her death. He knows that in his own way he's as responsible for what happened to her as the kidnappers themselves are, and this makes his character more interesting and in many ways more believable than he would have been otherwise. Wong's got the acting chops to pull it off, and this turns out to be one of his more interesting recent roles.
While the film might borrow elements from films like Taken, the character development and complexities afforded Wong's character here help to make it more original than it might at first seem. It might get a little bit predictable in spots, but overall, this is a fine film ripe with tension and solid drama.The DVD:
The 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is sharp and as colorful as the filmmakers probably wanted it to be. There aren't any issues with print damage and only some mild compression artifacts visible in a few of the darker scenes to note. The film frequently uses a cool color scheme and leans towards the dark side of the pallet but the DVD handles this well. Detail is good, contrast is fine and aside from some minor, albeit obvious, edge enhancement in a few scenes there's nothing to complain about here - the movie looks quite good.Sound:
Audio options are offered up in the original Chinese language track by way of a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix or by way of a noticeably inferior English language dub presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Both tracks sound fine but the dubbing doesn't suit the film particularly well, even if it comes through as clean and clear as you'd want it to. The 5.1 track not only presents the movie in its preferred original language but also has the added benefit of a few extras channels which it uses well to spread out the score and the sound effects. Optional subtitles are provided in English and French only.Extras:
Extras are slim, but there are two very brief featurettes included, both clocking in at under two minutes in length. An Inside Look At Punished is a quick look behind the scenes of the film and Directing The Cast is, a look at the director at work - both are pretty superficial, really. Aside from that, look for a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Vivendi properties, a still gallery, animated menus and chapter stops.
Punished is a decent revenge thriller with a good performance from Anthony Wong. It's got some stylish direction, some good tension and a well executed script, all qualities that help us overlook the fact that it's just a little bit less intense than you might want it to be. Vivendi's DVD looks and sounds good, and though the extras are little more than fluff, this disc comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.