Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

In director Kelvin Tong’s horror thriller ‘Rule Number One’ Shawn Yue assumes the role of overly dedicated beat cop Kwok-keung Lee. We see early in the movie Lee’s tendency to micromanage his job as he stops a man driving in a parking garage without his seatbelt and proceeds to give him a ticket. A less zealous cop would’ve let my man slide but not Officer Lee. After he writes this man a ticket, on the verge of letting him drive off, Lee observes that his man’s tail light is out. Again a less dedicated cop would’ve taken my man at his word that he’s going to get it fixed but not Officer Lee. In fact Officer Lee offers to repair his tail light on the spot. This leads to Officer Lee observing some blood dripping from the back of this car which subsequently leads to a very, very bad situation for Officer Lee.

Some months later, after Officer Lee heals, he is reassigned to the rather obscure Miscellaneous Affair Department of his police force. Lee believes he is being punished for reporting an apparition he saw during his previous incident but as it would turn out this would not be the case. Mind you this is just a three man department headed up by the very odd and consistently intoxicated Inspector Wong (Ekin Cheng) and the cases that they investigate are indeed quite obscure. What the M.A.D specifically investigates are the paranormal with Rule Number One in inspector Wong’s book being ‘There are no such things as ghost’. Officer Lee, due to whatever happened to him at that underground parking lot, knows that this rule is pretty far from the truth since he’s sees dead people pretty much every where, but Inspector Wong’s rule is more for the public than anything else since he explains quite clearly what would become of society if they actually believed ghosts were real.

The majority of these ghosts cause very little trouble, they just float around because they have no where else to go and freak people out. Others however are quite deadly with the ability to possess humans and inflict major death dealing damage. Wong and Lee are in pursuit of one evil spirited apparition in particular who is about as bad as

bad gets and seems to be very concerned about the well being of young Officer Lee who has a very beautiful and very pregnant wife at home to worry about. A ghost with a personal vendetta against you and the ability to move from body to body at will. Good luck with that one Officer Lee.

With ‘Rule Number One’ Kelvin Tong has crafted a film that is wildly inconsistent and equally unsettling, mainly due to its conclusion. The inconsistency of this film stems from the fact that there are huge gaps in the logical flow of a series of circumstances which are obviously patently illogical. There are some things within the narrative of the film that I simply didn’t understand or were never made clear to the viewer. For instance did Officer Lee always have the ability to see dead people or did getting shot up in the parking garage set this ability off, or does everybody have the ability to see dead people and simply aren’t aware that these people are dead? On one hand Lee and Wong seem to know when a ghost has possessed some poor slob and then other times they have no clue. To kill a ghost, once its possessed somebody, you need to kill the host in someway but then there was a scene where I’m guessing a possessed girl hung herself, which I think should’ve killed the ghost that was possessing her body as well right? Especially since there was no one to touch for this ghost to transfer too, but no, this ghost apparently floated through air, possessed some people and basically killed half of the teenage female population of Hong Kong. There really was no rhyme or reason, at least as far as I could discern, on why any of this was happening in this particular reality which does affect our ability to buy into this reality.

This being said ‘Rule Number One’ is a movie that does get by more on atmosphere and style than logic and here the film is an unqualified success in my opinion. The cinematography is suitably eerie, the pacing of the film is quite deliberate which adds to the tension that pulses throughout the movie, Shawn Yue turns in a fine performance as the tortured cop unable to deal with what he’s seeing and Ekin Cheng is his equal as the cop who has seen way too much. Of course the minute he tells us he’s going to retire we know that statement doesn’t bode well for a promising future for his character.

Recently I’ve seen a few films in theme similar to ‘Rule Number One’ in that these are the types of films that pace themselves for a particular type of ending with those other movies falling far short in that department. Not this movie. In fact, and this is a bit of a SPOILER but the ending of this movie was quite unsettling. I was prepared for an ending that I figured would be… how do you say… emotionally unsatisfying, but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I got with this one. This isn’t a Hollywood movie so a happy ending isn’t required but my God, this wasn’t cool. I’ve read some discussion on this particular ending where people have crafted alternate interpretations because as it stands this particular ending, for lack of a better word, is f**ked up. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily and not in this movie since it did end within the flow of the film but that didn’t make it any easier to watch or digest

‘Rule Number One’ is a mixed bag of illogical nonsense meets supreme style with the style aspects slightly tipping the scale in its favor. Entertaining to be sure but a lack of attention to the details in the narrative do the movie a disservice.

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