Film Review: Limbo 智齒 (2021) - Hong Kong
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Hong Kong Director Soi Cheang Pou-soi returns to his devilish best in this dystopia film that could have been set in any damning city in the world. With the dark side of the Hong Kong backdrop filled with rubbish and perfect juxtaposed with the noir lighting filmed in black and white for the entire duration. “Limbo” is every bit a dystopian nightmare and even at times hellish to the point of bottomless pit of society that no one wants to care, associate or be part of. This is the kind of brutal world created and shot beautifully by Soi Cheang, in a script written by Au Kin-yee and Shum Kwan-sin, which is a direct adaptation of Chinese author Lei Mi’s novel “Wisdom Tooth”.
In terms of memorable performance of the year, few can surpass, Chinese actress Cya Liu whose desperation for survival as she clings on to the demeaning situation that the world has put her into. Winning the Best Actress Award at the Hong Kong Films Awards is a well deserved recognition in a role that few actress in Hong Kong right now can undertake so captivatingly. The eyes, the emotions and the real heart felt performance goes beyond the black and white as the darkness of this dystopia is all the more evident as the credit rolls, her face is what lingers in our critical mindset.
Likewise, Gordon Lam Ka Tung is equal to the task as the expression filled angst and jaded cop that has an ongoing agenda against Cya Liu as she was involved in an accident that directly permanently injured his then pregnant wife. Lam is impressive and produced a sort of range that easily should have garnered him a Best Actor award. Mason Lee shines as the ambitious young cop and team captain who learns the ways of the world through real life experience from hell and back. Japanese actor Hiroyuki Ikeuchi goes wild in a raw performance that alludes to a wild animal amongst the dumpsters. Fish Liew continues her run of good character roles.
All in all, “Limbo” works well when viewed with an open mind as we descent into the dystopia that Soi Cheang wanted us to experience just as the characters are required to physically and emotionally invest into the condemning situations. Director Soi Cheang is at his best when allowed to create dark characters, “Dog Bite Dog” and “Shamo” comes to mind, almost forgetting the trilogy in the commercially driven and successful “Monkey King” series. Dark films requires strong and memorable performances and with Cya Liu, the Hong Kong cinema world has discovered another talent will shine on a even bigger stage. Film fans should rejoice on that alone. It also shows that Hong Kong filmmakers still have plenty of stories to tell.
I rated it 9/10
Note: The film was nominated for 14 categories and wining 4 awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2022. Including Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.