Sunday, December 28, 2008

Screener catch-up: Eye in the Sky

At some point, I'll probably do a big long list of everything I've got ticket stubs for this year; things have just gotten away from me lately. Before then, I made it one of my end-of-year goals to watch and review every screener I've been sent. Looking at the calendar, it might be wise to use it as a New Year's resolution instead.

I received two screeners from the Philadelphia Film Festival back in April; the other was Timecrimes, which I wound up seeing at Fantasia (after passing it up at the IFFB because I had a screener sitting on my coffee table). Suffice it to say that after this delay, I wouldn't be terribly shocked if they chose not to send me more next year.

Gun Chung (Eye in the Sky)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 26 December 2008 in Jay's Living Room (letterboxed DVD screener from the Philadelphia Film Festival)

It would not take a whole lot of tinkering to transform Eye in the Sky into a pretty good pilot for a pretty good TV show. Even considering the glut of police procedurals on American TV, there isn't one that attacks crime from this particular angle, and it introduces the idea well. It is, however, not a TV series, but a film, one which doesn't quite live up to the promise of its opening and idea.

The opening act is a corker, as a gang of crooks converge on a jewelry store to execute a precisely timed robbery. One, Brother Shan (Tony Leung Ka-Fai), hangs back, watching for anything unexpected - like one of their number being followed. What we don't see until everything is completed is that we've actually been watching two things going down. The robbery is one; the other is Sergeant Wong Man Chin (Simon Yam) testing young Constable Ho Ka Po (Kate Tsui) to see if she's got the right stuff to join the Surveillance Unit. He concludes that she's green, but doesn't look like a cop, so she's given the job. The unit's next job, of course, is poring over all the local surveillance footage to try and locate the crooks, with the hope that finding even one will lead them to the rest.

Like many police procedurals, Eye in the Sky is at its best when it is, in fact, procedural. The opening robbery is more a smash-and-grab than a delicate heist, but there's still enough moving parts and to keep it interesting. The mechanics of police surveillance is the really interesting part for a process junkie, as the cops switch tails off and on and scan screens to find people who show up multiple times. It's the sort of thing that a lot of crime movies gloss over, substituting magical facial recognition software for the legwork and combination of high- and low-tech methods we see used.

Complete review at EFC.

No comments: