February 22, 2010
Part caper film and part psychological thriller, Soi Cheang's Accident is an early highlight in this year's Film Comment Selects program. Opening to the gruesome image of a fatal car accident scene, the film immediately recalibrates the viewer's expectation over the notion of accident in another seemingly random traffic-related episode as an impatient driver, blocked by a woman in a disabled vehicle (Michelle Ye), tries to navigate around a narrow street. A fishmonger (Suet Lam) swerves past and splashes the car, occluding the driver's view. An advertising banner collapses. An old street peddler (Shui-Fan Fung) looks on and absentmindedly discards his cigarette holder along with his spent cigarette. Before the series of events is over, the driver would lie mortally wounded on a street corner waiting for an ambulance that arrives too late. And curiously, an onlooker (Louis Koo) subsequently retrieves the discarded cigarette holder from the street. Their actions prove to be interrelated, pieces of an elaborately planned assassination of a local triad boss by a band of contract killers led by a ringleader, Ho Kwok-fai - known as "The Brain" - who, in his grief and meticulous attention to detail, is convinced that his wife's death, too, had been orchestrated. Staging one accident after another, the group has become a surrogate family to the still haunted Ho, a bond that is strained when the team plots the death of a wheelchair-bound shopkeeper. Evoking Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation and Claude Chabrol's L'Enfer in its themes of obsession and paranoia, Accident is a taut, clever, and engaging film that, like its haunted antihero, finds art in coincidence and intrigue in the mundane.