Hidden Man will test your patience as it is very leisurely paced so it won’t be for everyone but if you’re looking for something stylish and unique then you could do a lot worse.
Plot: A young swordsman in 1930’s China returns home to try and solve a five-year-old murder case. Described as the third installment of the gangster trilogy that includes “Let The Bullets Fly” and “Gone With The Bullets.”
Review: Have you ever watched a movie but you just aren’t sure what to make of it? That’s the way I feel about Jiang Wen’s Hidden Man. I watched it last night as part of TIFF but I very much felt like an outsider. Pretty much the entire audience was Asian and they were laughing at various points in this movie where I was like “ha ha cool story, bro… what are we laughing at?” Not sure if it was the subtitles meaning something different from what was said but I definitely felt like I didn’t quite “get” this film.
It’s not like there was that much to it; it’s essentially a historical action epic about revenge with various meditations about what it means to either take revenge or be seen as a coward.
This is the case for Li Tianran (Eddie Peng) who witnessed the brutal murder of his master as a child and vows revenge which is planned over 15 years with the help of his “father “ and a man called Lan Qingfeng (Jiang Wen).
As several reviews have mentioned Hidden Man feels like a mixture of Kubrick with a hint of Tarantino with all of its fast cuts and rapid-fire dialogue. After a brutally violent opening scene nothing really happens for over an hour but there are a few moments of graphic violence interspersed with humour so you’re not quite sure whether to laugh or be shocked.
There are far too many talky scenes and I think action genre fans may find it mostly boring as it’s not until the final 20 minutes (the film is about 2 hours 17 minutes) when we finally get to see some real action.
Eddie Peng has several bloody fight scenes which are almost worth the rather tedious runtime. There are some disturbing moments like I said; one where a character has his teeth removed involuntarily which is arguably the most shocking but frankly it’s the violence that keeps you watching.
The pacing really is rather dull but the cinematography is sublime and it was something I had really never seen before which is always a big plus. If it gets a DVD/Blu-ray release here then I would recommend a rental so you can pause it for comfort breaks as it is a bit of a slog.
Overall, Hidden Man will be an acquired taste but if you enjoyed Jiang Wen’s Let the Bullet’s Fly or Gone with the Bullets then you’ll have a good idea of what to expect.