The Sparring Partner is a thought-provoking courtroom thriller that perpetually spins the table with shifting perspectives. It starts as a murder trial story and expands into a rich compelling cross-sectional look at Hong Kong society.
Based on a 2013 Hong Kong murder trial, Henry Cheung and Angus Tong, are taken to trial for the murder of the former's parents, Cheung Kuen Kwai and Shiu Suet Yee.
Yeung Wai Lun and Mak Pui Tung give tremendous debut performances. Yeung plays Henry as a fact like a normal person living and breathing before you and is never theatrically scary like a movie psychopath. What's brilliant is how Yeung blurs the lines of what a psychopath is. Is Henry Cheung a psychopath with zero empathy or is he just trying to be?
The cast all bring a stark realism. Mak Pui Tung was mesmerizing as the mentally-disabled Angus, always mentally lagging and overwhelmed without overdoing it. Jan Lamb's apathetic matter-of-fact lawyer is the complete 180 from the typical movie lawyer who believes in their client. It's funny in a cheeky way when you think of how often lawyers are romanticized.
The Sparring Partner stylistically combines cinema verité, documentary reenactment, and a courtroom drama all in one. The story is meticulously layered, effortlessly weaving between killer Henry Cheung's subconscious mind, alternating viewpoints of his family members, and the jury judging his actions on society's behalf.
Using this kaleidoscopic structure, director Ho Cheuk-Tin extends the film from a true crime account to a societal look at traditional parenting, generational clash, and social class. Through the 9 jury members, the discussion between the old and new generations, male and female, and young and elderly, the case becomes a reflective commentary on Hong Kong itself.
Henry Cheung blames his parents for his misery and lack of life skills. They forced him to learn the piano despite his lack of interest and sent him to school in Australia where he was subjected to racial bullying. Henry's gambling debts led his parents to purchase a real estate property for his brother, which instigated his plan to murder them.
Was this tragedy caused by one man's psychosis, his unfortunate upbringing by his parents or society itself?
The cinematography shows its budgetary restraints but makes up for it twofold with creative visuals. The jury discussions are visualized as the 9 members witnessing the crime happen before them. Also, the portions when we glimpse into Henry's twisted imagination, which I won't spoil here, are darkly spectacular.
The Sparring Partner is one of the best films of 2022 and undoubtedly the best Hong Kong film of 2022. I expect acting, writing and directing nominations come awards season.
Based on a shocking case in real life, a young man partners with his friend to murder and dismember his parents. Pleading not guilty to the crime, defense attorneys face each other as nine jurors grapple with the truth.
Uploaded by: FREEMAN
Tech specs720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
2 hr 17 min
P/S 6 / 38