Death Stranding movie review: dull, unrealistic Chinese crime thriller directed by Hong Kong’s Danny Pang is a tale of corruption, or is it revenge?

1/5 stars

There was a time when a film made by one or both of the Hong Kong directing duo known as the Pang brothers – of Bangkok Dangerous and The Eye fame – would have been cause for excitement. They offered the prospect of supernatural chills, gritty action or adventurous entertainment. That time is long gone.

Directed by Danny Pang Fat from an astonishingly incompetent screenplay he co-wrote, Chinese production Death Stranding is so careful about avoiding sanction that not only is it set some 20 years ago, it labels Thailand “some Chinese-speaking area in Southeast Asia” and gives what is conceivably Macau the made-up name “Tiger City”.

There is no such attention paid to the story itself; Death Stranding paints a convoluted and unrealistic portrait of a city besieged by corruption – before shaking off the crime-fighting nonsense in the last act to reveal the simplistic revenge action thriller at its core.

Wallace Chung Hon-leung ( Three) plays Feng, a Tiger City police inspector whose younger sister – the girlfriend of his childhood friend Zuo (a dull Francis Ng Chun-yu, an odd casting choice given he is 13 years Chung’s senior) – died two years ago in the residence of a depraved Thai gangster boss.

When his one-man investigation comes to nothing, Feng turns his attention to exposing the collusion between corrupt gambling tycoon Wu Xin (Eddie Cheung Siu-fai) and the aforementioned Thai baddy, just as the Tiger City government is looking to rein in the city’s bad apples before opening up its entertainment industry.

Eddie Cheung as corrupt gambling tycoon Wu Xin in a still from “Death Stranding”.

Feng also has to contend with other unfortunate coincidences: Zuo, a top-ranking official who specialises in fighting commercial crimes, is now ostensibly working with the money-laundering Wu, while Wu’s wife, Julie (Myolie Wu Hang-yee), happens to be Feng’s ex-girlfriend.

None of these details mean much when Pang wraps up his hollow film with a wild and unintentionally funny action climax. The shift to full-on revenge mode only happens when the good guys belatedly learn that the young woman was raped and murdered; they were relatively OK with her just being murdered.

Death Stranding could have been a fun, guilty-pleasure watch if it had at least nailed its car chases and shoot-outs. Alas, they are sub-par by Hong Kong cinema’s usual standards and we are left to make do with a lifeless, illogical mess of a story.

Francis Ng as corrupt crime fighter Zuo in a still from “Death Stranding”.
After spending the past decade directing one forgettable dud after another for the mainland Chinese market, Pang’s latest film is ultimately notable only for its English title – an arbitrary rip-off of Hideo Kojima’s genre-defying video game of the same name.
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