Fantasia Film Festival: A Witness Out of the Blue Review

A Witness Out of the Blue

Chi-Keung Fung’s A Witness Out of the Blue follows Wang Xin-yuan, an on-the-run jewelry thief who is searching for answers after being accused of murdering his fellow team member. The film begins as a standard mystery crime drama, but as the film unfolds, it reveals a compelling examination of what pushes good people to do some terrible things. As the film successfully conveys the central theme of justice through sin through its cast of characters, the film’s ridiculous comedy dilutes the serious tone and the gravity of this intricate thriller.

Without the comedic elements, A Witness Out of the Blue sets up a mystery where anyone could be the killer. Almost every character believes that the only way to get justice is by breaking the law, and these characters have their reasons for doing the bad things that they do. A Witness Out of the Blue is a character-driven story, and writer/director Chi-Keung Fung weaves through this storyline so well that you will not be able to figure it out until close to the end of the film. It is not as predictable as you might think since there are a lot of red herrings and twists and turns to throw you off from finding out who the real villain is.

Yet none of this would be possible if it were not for the humanistic performances by the cast — chief among them is Louis Koo. He may not show much emotion on his face, but his performance is dependent on the look in his eyes. When his teammates ask what he’s going to do with the money, he says, “I just want to get some sleep.” His lack of sleep signifies the amount of emotional pain that his character is going through. Koo uses his eyes to convey all of the pain from his life as a thief. 

A Witness Out of the Blue - Louis Koo and Louis Cheung

Unfortunately, Chi-Keung Fung also infuses some comedy into the film to lighten the mood. A Witness Out of the Blue, as a whole, has action, comedy, character drama, mystery, and thrills — everything but the kitchen sink. However, this mixture of genres is the norm for films made in China and Hong Kong. Since the moviegoing experience is a luxury, filmmakers mix them to give moviegoers more bang for their hard-earned money. Some films do it well (see: Jackie Chan’s early work), and others, like A Witness Out of the Blue, do not do it well.

The film also falls under the same issues as other Hong Kong films that crams too much in it. So, as a result, it tonally goes all over the place. The crime drama/mystery is a highlight, but the comedy pulls you out of the movie and becomes a detriment. For example, the addition of the parrot adds so much juvenile humor to the film. Also, the loan shark in the film adds a bit of slapstick comedy to the film. These comedic elements occur at random points, and never seamlessly integrated into the film.

Overall, A Witness Out of the Blue is successful strictly as a mystery crime thriller. The film uses this genre as a way to convey the film’s central theme of getting justice through sin. Unfortunately, the comedic elements of the film completely take you away from the film. Although mixing a plethora of genres is the norm in the Chinese film industry, adding a comedic element did not work. After all, you would not add comedy to a serious film like Infernal Affairs, would you? Although it does succeed in entertaining the audience, it fails in delivering the point of the whole film.

Rating: 3/5 atoms

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