Cross (Hong Kong, 2012)

CrossCross is a psychological crime thriller about an ultra-religious serial killer. It’s now available on DVD and Digital HD in North America from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Veteran Hong Kong actor Simon Yam stars as optician Lee Leung. The film begins with him going to a police station where he confesses to having killed several people and provides evidence of his actions. He explains that his wife had leukemia and that after she committed suicide, he was convinced that she wouldn’t go to heaven because such an act is a most serious sin.

To save others who were inclined to kill themselves from eternal damnation – and to possibly redeem his wife’s sin – he frequented an online forum for those contemplating suicide. There he communicated with some individuals and arranged to dispatch them so that they would not be damned. Thus he thought of himself as not a murderer, but as God’s agent, saving individuals from the sin of committing suicide. He absolutely believed that their deaths had to be with “serenity and joy.” A death that turned out to be not peaceful was the reason for him coming to the police.

As two individuals investigate the crimes, it begins to appear that things may not be as straightforward as they seem. More and more, the evidence starts to suggest that Lee has actually not been acting on his own, but rather has been manipulated by someone to unknowingly do their murderous bidding.

The premise is a fine one: a religious fanatic who believes he is doing God’s will, but instead may be little more than a puppet for someone with a totally unholy agenda. It could also serve as a cautionary tale about relying on information found on the Internet.

Unfortunately, the film is a total mess. Maybe it’s a problem with the subtitles, but the two individuals who investigate the murders are never precisely identified. In any case, one of them goes to Lee’s home, where he puts on Lee’s clothes and acts as if he were Lee, presumably to “get into” Lee’s head. Just how the conclusion is reached that Lee has been manipulated isn’t at all clear, not even remotely. The situation is not helped either by one significant character, for no apparent reason, being played by two different actors, one in the present, the other in flashbacks, of which there are many.

I was so amazed by how bad the film was that I wondered if I had just missed everything that would make it something better. Unable to find it at IMDb, I went to the film’s Wikepedia entry. There I found a link to the film’s IMDB page, where it is listed under the local title of Tian ma xing xion and has a deservedly dismal rating of 4.4 out of 10 from 45 users.

According to several sources I consulted (including the Hong Kong Movie Database, Love Hong Kong Film, and Asian Film Strike), four directors (who also served as scriptwriters) worked on Cross over the course of well over a year, a very long time for such a short final product. Each of the reviewers had pretty much the same negative opinion of the final work as I did. So the fault seems to be with the film, not with my reaction to it.

When the VCinema Podcast was running, we used a rating system of “Buy it,” “Rent it,” or “Forget It.” By that system I’d have to recommend that you rent it if you feel that you must watch it for yourself, although you won’t be missing anything significant if you just “forget it.” I definitely can’t recommend buying the DVD, which has an SRP of $24.98, unless you have some unfathomable reason to own it.

In terms of the four star rating system I use on my blog AsianCineFest, I’d give it 1 star out of 4, equivalent to “poor.”

This review was first posted at AsianCineFest.