Edinburgh 2016: Trivisa review


Featuring in the World Perspectives strand at Edinburgh, Trivisa is a Hong Kong production that takes place in the borderlands between the island and mainland China during the 1997 British handover. There is the kernel of a very good film here that is stamped into unfathomable nothingness by a trio of directors who all appear to have been singing from different hymn sheets.

Jevons Au, Frank Hui and Vicky Wong have created a crime thriller that is haphazard and incoherent from start to finish, culminating in ludicrous, thoroughly unsatisfactory madness. It may be inspired by true characters and occur in a specific time and place but the end result is all over the map. High hopes in the opening moments quickly dissipate. A crane shot swings us down to street level. Tracking a suspicious looking chap with a cap pulled down over his eyes, the police stop him and ask what is in his bag. Little did they know it’s a gun. Three coppers hit the deck and a cut takes us to a safe house where a television shows news reports of a vicious gun battle where villains are patched up before fleeing.

Next up, and bringing the action up to date (1997), a chap in a bright orange suit sings karaoke and demands ransom for a rich businessman’s son. The police killer returns on a Canadian passport. There are multiple meetings of different folk who we don’t recognise at a fancy restaurant. Old friends reunite and one moves in with the other’s family for a while. There is mention of a legendary band of armed named the Invisible King of Thieves. Got that? No, not really. The passage of time, changes in appearance and demeanour make it hard to follow who is who let alone what is transpiring but what essentially occurs is a vast man hunt by Mr. Orange Suit who looks to get the old band of merry thieves back together.

As far as plot is concerned that is as much as can be said. It’s a real pity because the cinematography and score are outstanding. The film looks and sounds tremendous but its tone and construction are so all over the place that there is never the chance of investment in a film that confuses more than it entertains. All sociopolitical context is forgotten for the great majority of a rambling run time before being shoe-horned in as an after thought in the closing moments. Some films are meant to induce head-scratching and ambiguity. It doesn’t seem that the makers of Trivisa had that in mind but it’s hard to be sure.

The 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place from 15-26 June. For info visit edfilmfest.org.uk.

Matthew Anderson | @behind_theseens