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
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
My rating for the film: 7.