Hitman File (2005)

Directed by
Reviewed by Simon on 2012-05-25

Hey, where am I?  Who are all these people?  What's going on?  I'm confused!

As a big fan of badly subtitled wu xia pian, this is not an unfamiliar state for me - but since HIT MAN FILE is neither badly subtitled nor wu xia, I do feel that I should have had more of a clue by the end of the film as to who these people were, and more importantly why they were killing each other.  The overall plot is fairly straightforward - organised criminals, police (corrupt and uncorrupt) and politicians all have agendas of the conflicting kind and people must die.  A former soldier turned hitman gets caught up in the crossfire, as does his generously endowed agent.  The details, however, are often rather murky - I may have known who the characters were, but not like I knew them.  It's like I was only seeing pieces of a bigger story that writer/director Sananjit Bangsapan clearly had in his head but chose not to share with us (or assumed greater powers of clairvoyancy in his audience than I can bring to the table).

It's clear that the director had the desire to create a moody, stylised and fatalistic story of characters on the edge of modern society, and that Wong Kar-Wai was an inspiration (specifically Fallen Angels and Chungking Express, though the film is far less giddy and quirky than those).  He neglected to provide us with the voice-overs that WKW used prolifically to help the viewer become acquainted with his characters and their stories.  I'm not averse to films that credit the viewer with enough sense to figure out what's going on without having expository dialogue shoved down his eye sockets - but I guess I need a little more to work with than HIT MAN FILE provides.

Which is a shame, because there's a lot to like about it - it's nicely shot, has a good soundtrack and seems generally of a high technical standard.  There's some pretty nice shoot-outs (mostly realistic - don't expect John Woo style bullet ballet), mostly good acting and a good evocation of atmosphere.  It's just that the lack of character definition left me feeling very detached from it all...  events that are probably very interesting if you understand their place in the big picture fail to raise any great sense of emotional involvement because the big picture is a blur.

All in all, it's a fairly enjoyable watch with some really nice scenes... but a strange film to end up getting an R1 release (from KINO) when so few Thai films do.  Probably one that's aimed at the art-house crowd who can stroke their chins afterwards and feel superior to those poor plebians who watch simple little films with plots they can understand.  Which, come to think of it, I'm not averse to doing myself!

6 chin strokes out of 10