HONG KONG PANORAMA: THE BIG CALL (巨额来电) (Oxide Pang, 2017)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Wednesday, July 4, 2:40
Festival runs through July 15
Hong Kong-born filmmaker Oxide Pang Chun has his work cut out for him in The Big Call, a thriller about phone scams somewhat more complicated than the classic Nigerian cons. “It’s a war with keyboards,” one character proclaims, and indeed, much of the film is spent showing people on their smartphones and typing at computers, trying to explain the often inexplicable plot, which is riddled with ridiculous twists and turns yet still has its compelling moments and, ultimately, foot and car chases, torture, and violence. After his high school teacher commits suicide because of a scam, young cop Ding Xiaotian (Cheney Chen) begins investigating a ring of high-tech thieves who trick and/or threaten people in order to drain their bank accounts. Run by lovers Lin Ahai (Zhang Xiaoquan) and Liu Lifang (Gwei Lun-mei), the operation recruits women and essentially imprisons them in Thailand, where they make the calls in a carefully orchestrated system that rarely fails. They have been infiltrated by Xu Xiaotu (Jiang Mengjie), an ambitious officer who went to the academy with Ding, who has joined the Anti-Telecommunication Fraud Centre, where he butts heads with Inspector Tan Sirong (Zhang Zhaohui). When Lin Xiaoqin (Peng Xinchen), Lin’s sister, gets scammed and Taiwan mastermind Lu Chixiong (Luo Dahua) makes an aggressive bet with Lin Ahai, the risks rise and the blood-spilling ratchets up.
Pang has made a series of popular films with his twin brother, Danny Pang Phat, including Bangkok Dangerous,
The Eye, and Re-Cycle. Working solo here, Pang, who cowrote the screenplay with Liu Hua, keeps the tension building, pulling you back in every time the ever-more-absurd story nearly flies off the handle. Taiwanese star Lun-mei (Girlfriend, Boyfriend; Black Coal, Thin Ice) is ultracool as the vicious Liu and the main reason to keep on watching. The Big Call is screening July 4 at 2:40 at Lincoln Center in the Hong Kong Panorama section of the “Savage Seventeenth” edition of the New York Asian Film Festival, which continues through July 15 with a wide range of movies from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Denmark, by such directors as Wilson Yip, Zhou Ziyang, Dante Lam, Shinsuke Sato, Lee Byeong-heon, Huang Xi, and Masato Harada.