Review: The Big Call (China/HK 2017) – NYAFF 2018

© 2017 Universe Entertainment Limited

The Big Call, the latest from Oxide Pang, is so hilariously overwrought (even by Hong Kong standards) for its subject matter that I spent most of the first half of the movie convinced it was a sly parody.  No such luck tough, this police thriller about the glamorous world of telephone scamming is dead serious.

When I say glamorous, I mean it.  The phone scammers are gorgeous people lounging around beautiful apartments in evening wear, throwing money around and celebrating like Bond supervillains.  Even the police get in on the action, when young policeman Ding (Cheney Chen) joins Elite Anti-Telecom Fraud Center, he is ushered into a command center that looks like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, a far cry from any law enforcement center I’ve ever been in.

Ding himself is entirely unmemorable, as the saying goes, he’s one standard unit of “handsome police hero.”  Fortunately, the villains are a little more fun.  Joseph Chang relishes chewing the scenery as the oily Lin Yahai, but it’s Gwei Lun-mei as Lin’s lover/call center manager who completely steals the film as Liufang – ultimately, only her story has any real resonance and that’s entirely due to her performance.

Naturally, this film being what it is, we get some wild gun fights and car chases.  I get that phone fraud is a major problem, but by highlighting it, this very silly film will probably have the opposite effect.  It turns spear phishing and phony calling into a sexy pursuit, instead of a grinding misery that plays out in Indian call centers with elderly victims.

2 1/2 out of 4 stars (Good).

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