With a mix of nationalities both behind the scenes and onscreen, Red Nights is a strange mix of styles and elements (some giallo moments, a bit of Guinea Pig nastiness, some scenes reminiscent of the work of Jee-woon Kim, the cool and callous characters moving through a neo-noir set of hazy morals, etc) that ends up being quite a treat for people after something a bit different and more than a bit visually gorgeous.
The story revolves around a box that contains something very precious. People are after the box and are willing to pay a high price for it. They’re also willing to double cross and kill others. Carrie Ng plays a woman especially keen to get her hands on the box and, most importantly, to KEEP it in her possession but Frederique Bel is the woman who won’t just lie down and die after being placed in jeopardy during the journey of the box.
It’s a shame that Red Nights didn’t get someone better in the editing suite and someone a bit better pushing the onscreen action towards and beyond the normal boundaries because those are the two biggest failings that the film has. It feels slightly padded out in places, despite the runtime not actually being THAT long, and when the better moments appear they do little more than hint at superb potential we, sadly, never see realised. The opening 10 minutes alone contains something visually brilliant and impressively unique that is never again capitalised on for the rest of the movie. Stylish and beautiful it may be but it’s just a shame that nobody involved decided to just embrace the weirdness of the central concept (something I won’t spoil by mentioning here). The movie therefore becomes a wild and strange beast that stands there after having a haircut and being forced into a nice suit. It’s restricted and polished when it yearns to break free and bite people.
The cast are all very good but the most praise goes to the camerawork, featuring many individual frames and scenes of eye-pleasing beauty. Writer/directors Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud at least find the material served impeccably by cinematographer Man-Ching Ng, who makes almost every moment something worthy of being framed and placed in an art gallery.
Red Nights doesn’t come together as well as it should but it definitely has enough separate elements to entertain fans of a few different genres and styles and it’s one that I would highly recommend to fans of great cinematography and luscious visual aesthetics. Love it or not, I think that you’ll come away from viewing the film with at least one or two moments lingering in your memory.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: JULIEN CARBON, LAURENT COURTIAUD
STARS: CARRIE NG, FREDERIQUE BEL, CAROLE BRANA, STEPHEN WONG CHEUNG-HING, KOTONE AMAMIYA, MARIA CHEN, JACK KAO
RUNTIME: 98 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: HONG KONG/FRANCE/BELGIUM