Starring: Kara Hui, Wu Ke-xi, VIcky Chen
Director: Yang Ya-che
Running Time: 112 mins
The Bold, The Corrupt And The Beautiful is a Taiwanese film about a family of three generations of women mingling in high society who are forced to cope with the aftermath of a gruesome murder that took the lives of their closest friends.
This film won the Golden Horse Award for Best Film, the Chinese-language equivalent of the Best Picture Oscar. As a result, I had high expectations going into The Bold, The Corrupt And The Beautiful, but I can’t quite say they were fully satisfied. On the one hand, this is a visually impressive, elegant and well-acted crime drama with a lot going on, but on the other, its story is never really consistent enough to truly grab you, and occasionally bungles its way along on a rather convoluted path towards the end.
Let’s start, however, with the positives. Above all, I really liked the visuals in this film. Director Yang Ya-che does a great job of mixing elegant and vibrant cinematography with a very elegant atmosphere, the likes of which always make for a more riveting crime drama, and at times even feels a little like the legendary thriller The Handmaiden.
While the story may not be as bulletproof throughout, this film is always an absolute visual delight, and goes a long way to crafting a very sleek and often mysterious atmosphere that help to make the plot more intriguing.
Also, the performances here are generally pretty good. Save for a couple of supporting players who are a little over-the-top at times, the majority of the actors here do a great job at conveying their characters’ various complex allegiances and intentions, as well as some pretty heavy emotions that you don’t see coming early on.
Kara Hui is great as the grandmother of the Tang family at the centre of the film, with a cross between a socialising older lady and a more calculating, possibly dangerous manipulator. Wu Ke-xi also owns almost all of her scenes, as the hot-headed young woman who threatens the stability of the family, and Vicky Chen impresses once again with a brilliantly nuanced turn that features a stunning amount of emotional force for someone of her age.
As a result, there’s a lot to focus on in this movie, with a whole range of characters and complex manoeuvres, as well as those brilliant visuals, however that’s not quite enough to help this movie to being what you would consider Best Picture material.
The biggest problem lies in the story. Now, the plot here is actually pretty intriguing, and there’s no doubt that there’s a lot going on, but the screenplay doesn’t manage to tie it all together particularly well.
Its first act is basically a half an hour setup for the many, many characters involved. It can feel a little overwhelming at times having so many people thrust at you, and a little difficult to really remember who’s on what side, but if you stick with it, it’s a worthwhile opening act for the drama and twists that follow.
The middle portion of the film is undoutedly its strongest, with big twists and unexpected drama throughout, managing to spark genuine suspicion and excitement as various characters are all revealed to have perfectly plausible motives for the crime, making for an intriguing and at times even very tense watch.
Unfortunately, things really fall apart in the final act, and the film doesn’t manage to stick the satisfying landing that it’s been building up to since the start. With so many characters all surrounding a mysterious and brutal crime, the story merits an Agatha Christie-style reveal at the end, but it instead takes a very higgledy-piggledy route towards the finish, and left me a little confused with all that happened towards the end.
Although some of the final act’s moments are inventive and interesting, others are very jarring and seemingly unnecessary. Throughout the first two acts, the film manages to establish itself as a good crime mystery, but with a series of convoluted and overthought twists as the final act begins, things become a whole lot less intriguing, which was a real shame to see, and that’s why I’m giving The Bold, The Corrupt And The Beautiful a 7.4 overall.