Astonishing (2004) / Mystery-Thriller
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for some violence and adult situations
Running Time: 99 min.
Cast: Christy Chung, Alex Fong, Sasha Hou, Sammo Hung, Rain Li, William So, Wayne Lai
Director: Herman Yau
Review published November 20, 2004
Mandy (Christy Chung, The Medallion) and Kenny (Alex Fong, Lifeline) seem to have the ideal marriage, even after seven years. That is, until Mandy receives a mysterious DVD that contains a hypnotic image of a man telling her that she will lose everything -- her husband, her home, and even her identity. She's disturbed but can't really make sense of it, so she shrugs it off. Later, the couple are involved in a car accident, and Mandy's next waking moment is in a hospital bed, weeks later. However, the world she lives in isn't quite right, as now everyone around her sees her as Fiona (Sasha Hou), Kenny's female co-worker, while the woman she knew as Fiona is Mandy.
Not since Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale has there been a thriller that reloads its plot as much as Herman Yau's Astonishing, which lives up to its title by trying to pull the rug out from under the viewer an astonishing amount of times. Interestingly, Yau tries to achieve this feat by concocting a very hard-to-swallow plotline where everything is not what it seems, and the only thing more ridiculous than the explanation Yau offers up is the one he offers right after to try to make up for it.
If I used spoilers, I would explain more, but in any case, I'm so bewildered by the last half hour of this film, I am at a loss of words to explain it. Astonishing is a muddled, confusing, and farfetched thriller that will only please people who determine the quality of the mystery by how are off they were in solving it. Oh, you probably will be fooled, mostly due to the fact that the revelations offered are so profoundly silly that they defy all logic, with motivations so nonsensical and extreme that all of the momentum Yau builds is wiped away in an instant.
By the end of the film, I was still unsure what is fact, what is fiction, what is a dream, and what is hypnotic suggestion. If I had the time and patience, perhaps I could undergo repeat viewings and try to content myself with some sort of a sense as to just what's going on, but after this first time through, I suspect all attempts would be equally frustrating. Astonishing is an incoherent thriller with early moments of promise, but vast overreaching in the screenplay sinks this one into the abyss of shamefully bad mind-bending suspense vehicles that are too clever for their own good.
©2004 Vince Leo