Legally Declared Dead 死因無可疑 (2020) - Hong Kong
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
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One of the most atmospheric gore crime thriller of the year, comes in the form of local Hong Kong film - “Legally Declared Dead”. Director Steve Yuen plays with human characters and the internal struggles between evil and good. What makes the film fascinating is the slow burn effect which focuses on how the characters develop and the human behaviour and interactions alluded to the insect kingdom. The film is brilliantly staged and equipped with quality acting from veteran Anthony Wong and Karena Lam, while Carlos Chan takes centerstage alongside rising star Kathy Yuen.
Anthony Wong gets the juicy role as the slightly mentally handicapped person that gets mistaken as the real evil doer. Playing husband in an absolute abusive relationship with Karena Lam (in an almost unrecognisable role). Lam shows the power play in the relationship not dissimilar to master and slave, both physically and mentally torturing Wong to act as she please. There is no redeeming factor in Lam’s character and she emphasis the true demon that does not repent. Carlos Chan plays the lead role as the insurance broker who investigate the potential fraud after being staged to witness the suicide of Wong and Lam’s young son. Chan proves to be dependable as a lead and manages to sustain the audience intensity, even if he overacts in crucial moments. The finale with Lam as well as the emotions on display remain one of Chan’s best performance to date. Rising star Kathy Yuen is right at home as the girlfriend and psychology student, but the film does not allow more arc to her unexplored character. Liu Kai Chi is scene stealing in a small cameo as Yuen’s professor whose cheekiness and arrogance led to his eventual downfall.
All in all, “Legally Declared Dead” is an highly engaging retelling on Japanese writer Yusuke Kishi’s 1997 novel “The Black House” which has been adapted in Korean and Japanese films previously. In Yuen’s adaptation, we witness how childhood events and happenings shaped all the characters to become good and evil. The line between good and evil is often blurred, but absolute evil is what remains truly scary. Karena Lam played the evil monster role to perfection and reminds us of her previous monster role in “Home Sweet Home”. There are probably other things that Yuen may actually want to depict, some are better expressed than others. Ultimately, “Legally Declared Dead” remains a solid and well acted and atmospherically staged thriller.
I rated it 7.5/10