THE UNTOLD STORY *** Hong Kong 1993 Dir: Danny Lee, Herman Yau. 95 mins
A peculiar combination of broad comedy, SWEENEY TODD-derived black humour, gruelling violence and brutal prison drama, this notorious Cat III movie pivots around a terrifyingly committed performance by Anthony Wong.
The deeply chauvinistic police department – where all the guys perve over their boss’ busty girlfriend – are baffled by an assortment of body parts washing ashore. We know it’s the work of bespectacled restaurateur Wong, who possesses an alarming stillness even when committing the most despicable acts. His “barbecue pork buns” are fashioned from the minced-up body parts of his victims. Some of his antics are played for sick laughs – hacking off a corpse’s stubbornly clingy hand – but, when he’s arrested at the midway point, the violence turns serious and ugly.
Weakened by the abrasive, unfunny cop scenes, this gets heavy during its prison stretch as the ruthless Wong is himself beaten up, pissed on and attempts suicide by chewing on his own exposed arteries. As harrowing as these scenes are, Wong’s grim sexual assault on a female co-worker, recalling some of the nastier rape-revenge movies of the 1970s, takes the picture into “no-fun” territory – complete with repellent chopstick penetration. A climactic flashback sequence ventures into a realm few movies dare to visit, as Wong recalls how he killed his brother’s family over a gambling debt: steel yourself for extreme images of small children showered in the blood of their graphically butchered parents (and far worse).
Visually drab, relentlessly cynical and tonally all over the place, THE UNTOLD STORY – anchored by Wong’s astonishing work – has the habit of lingering in your brain years after viewing and, at one point, achieves what many films promise (and rarely deliver) by literally piling up the severed arms, legs and heads.
Review by Steven West