Legally Declared Dead like Double Indemnity before it, showing that the world of Insurance Claims is a dangerous one, even in China.
This film takes the old adage of ‘The Road to Hell is Laid with Good Intentions’ to its most logically cinematic conclusion. Nothing is what it seems in director Yuen Kim Wai twisted noir.
Sean (Carlos Chan) is a young hotshot Insurance Agent. It is fate or divine intervention when he picks up a call from Tak (Anthony Wong) asking about the suicide clause in his policy. When the Insurance Agent goes to an agreed meeting with Tak and his wife Ling (Karena Lam), he finds the couple’s young adopted son has hung himself. No one believing Sean that foul play is afoot and Tak, who has some sort of social disabilities, is his main suspect. Not all is what it appears as deeply felt personal convictions drive Sean to puts his job and life on the line to find this young boy’s killer.
I would warn people that the first thirty minutes of this movie are… a tough sit. There are things that happen that just do not sit well. I understand this. Go along with the movie. The script adapted by director Yuen knows exactly what it is doing. As the film begins its plot in earnest one begins to see that Legally Declared Dead may have been playing with a stacked deck. Patience rewards viewers with something that is quite different than at first appearance.
The film manages to balance understanding and cynically edged personalities with great ease. The triangle at the center of this film played by Chan, Wong, and Lam is one of the best acted and written cat-and-mouse dance seen on screen in a long while. Wong who is one of the Elder Statesmen of Hong Kong cinema is flat out amazing as Tak. The actor is required to play multiple facets of a character at the same time. The actor makes the performance look simple when it is anything but.
Karena Lam’s performance is great but all the most considering that the rather young actress is asked to play a role that is 20-years her senior. The work she does like Wong is a brilliant piece of multifaceted acting. Chan is good as the lead here giving us a softer more delicate hero. This choice helps the film’s final third act that takes things to a dizzyingly violent end.
Legally Declared Dead and its twisted and twisty take on the Film Noir Troupes bringing them into our violent and cynical times with an ending moment you won’t soon forget.