Web of Deception



Reviewed by YTSL

This 1989 film is one of Tsui Hark's less well known, apparently less widely available and generally lesser efforts.  Nevertheless, it does have certain recognizably Tsui Harkean (!) characteristics (notably in the prominent featuring of women a la "Peking Opera Blues").  And it stars the actress who probably is his favorite, Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia (Tsui featured in my "holy grail" of Hong Kong movie-related items, a TV documentary entitled "A Portrait of Lin Ching-Hsia), along with among others -- Joey Wong.  The potential viewer needs to be warned though that "The East is Red", this movie most definitely is not!  Among other reasons:  There are NO cross-dressing shenanigans here, and this movie has a (then) contemporary pre-Handover Hong Kong setting...

On one level, WEB OF DECEPTION can be described as yet another production whose (nervy, jittery, paranoid) mood is influenced by the then widespread fear and uncertainty over the increasingly imminent return of Hong Kong to the Chinese...Maybe I am reading too much into it, but 1989 was, after all, the year of the Tian An Men Square massacre.  What is indisputable though is that migration thoughts weigh heavily on the parts of some of this film's protagonists.  For instance, one of this movie's main characters is a secretary (played by Pauline Wong) who decides to blackmail her lawyer boss (Brigitte Lin) in large part because the latter had not decided to (permanently) take her along to Canada.
On a more obvious level though, this largely is a claustrophobic thriller.  Although it starts off looking like a straight-forward story of attempted blackmailing, it quickly gets complicated when other characters -- not least the lawyer's broker (Elizabeth Lee), the secretary's apartment-mate (Joey Wong) and the apartment-mate's younger sister (also played by Joey Wong!) -- are brought into the picture.  Chaos, confusion, tension and stress truly envelop the proceedings when someone breaks into single-woman-living-alone Lin's house.  Hopefully without giving too much away, the movie's plot threads include:  Jane Lin (Brigitte Lin) wrongly suspecting a particular person of wanting to blackmail her (and behaving accordingly); another character really wanting to murder Lin; while yet another player only wants to rob the migrating lawyer of the substantial amount of money she temporarily has stashed in the house even while she knows of the existence of and variously schemes with, works against as well as confronts -- the person who is intent on killing Lin.
This production is not without interesting and (darkly but also slapstick-type) humorous moments (I particularly enjoyed a dining scene in which two people refuse -- on an item-by-item basis -- to eat a substantial meal prepared by someone they strongly suspect of having murderous intentions).  On a less positive note though: Even while I was reduced to hugging a cushion for assurance mid-way through the movie, I will confess to concluding that quite a few actions of the characters were somewhat unbelievable as well as less than admirable and unlikable for my absolute liking.  I also consider the film's conclusion somewhat unsatisfactory.  Despite all that, this still is quite an engrossing effort that would be worth seeing (especially if one is a fan of Tsui Hark, Brigitte Lin and/or Joey Wong...and how many Hong Kong movie fans aren't?!).

My rating for the film:  7.