49 Days (2006) / Thriller-Horror
aka Sai Chiu
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence and some scary images
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Stephen Fung, Gillian Chung, Raymond Wong, Steven Cheung, Kau Lap-yi, Jess Zhang
Director: Lam Kin-lun
Review published May 15, 2006
Somewhere underneath all of the nonsense, there seems to be a good movie yearning to break free. Sadly, the script doesn't even begin to touch on the more interesting possibilities with the main story, ignoring them in favor of standard supernatural thriller clichés and needless action. It doesn't help that the direction by Lam Kin-lun is mechanical at best, never able to provide any key moments of mystery, intrigue, or drama. By the end of the film, whatever semblance of a story left falls completely apart, while we're shown action and scares that are neither thrilling nor scary, mostly because we give up caring about any of the shallow characters long before the halfway point has passed.
Stephen Fung (Gen-X Cops, House of Fury) plays Lau Sing, an herb and medicine specialist that leaves his wife and young daughter for a proposed three years in order to pursue a career in the medical industry. Four years pass, as we find Lau Sing a wealthy man, but on the verge of his return trip home, a scheming lowlife (Wong, Love Undercover 2) torches the business, killing many, while pinning the blame on Lau Sing himself. Lau Sing is found guilty of the crime and gets a death sentence, but finds an unlikely ally in the prison guard, who sets him up with a young divorce attorney named Siu Chin (Chung, Huadu Chronicles), who proceeds to find evidence that would exonerate her client. The road isn't easy, however, as Siu Chin ends up not being able to make the deadline, but thanks to a mysterious reprieve by the executioner, Lau Sing is given a second chance to reunite with his family and clear his name.
49 Days has a couple of interesting hooks, but it's saddled by an overriding sense of mediocrity. it doesn't take long before we're dropped into the middle of a routine thriller, but without much of a real rooting interest in the characters, we've little choice but to pass the time watching the plot go through predictable motions for a bit before the whole thing reinvents itself as a tale of supernatural intrigue. From then on it becomes drawn out and nonsensical, giving us flashes of unsavory images and ghost stories that seem to be cobbled together from at least a half dozen other notable horror films made in recent years.
With lackluster acting, ham-handed direction, and a muddled story, 49 Days is a generic, instantly forgettable entry in the Asian supernatural thriller genre without much appeal to anyone except perhaps loyal fans of pop star Gillian Chung. The English title for this film is 49 Days, but if you were to ask me, it could have been more accurately dubbed 93 Wasted Minutes.
©2006 Vince Leo