Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Sam (Sung Kang) is back in Los Angeles after being away for a year. Where he’s been is a mystery but he is none too happy with Phil (David Connolly). You see a year ago Sam was riding with his good friend and defacto little brother Joon (Leonardo Lam) when Joon alerts Sam, who is some kind of extremely low level criminal, that he as crap load of prescription meds in the back of his car and is on his way to make a drugs for cash transfer. This doesn’t make Sam very happy since Joon failed to inform him of his part in this little transaction, and when Sam finds out that Joon got the drugs from a dirty cop he’s even less happy. As tend to happen in movies involving cash for drugs, it all goes straight to hell and Joon gets shot, but inexplicably Sam doesn’t take the badly wounded Joon to the hospital because Joon ‘begged’ him not to so he wouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment to his parents. Instead Sam drives around until Joon dies and then drives his car into a wooded field and disappears for a year.

Now Sam is back though I’m not quite sure exactly why he’s back, and neither is anybody else in this movie. He’s none to happy with Phil because he thinks Phil might have set up the transaction that ended up getting Joon killed, but other than throwing a glass of water at my man, Sam isn’t looking for revenge. He has an old friend in an old man named Don (Tom Bower) who he seems to be taking advantage of, and Don is extremely tolerant of Sam’s various idiosyncrasies for reasons that will be explained later. He has an ex-girlfriend in Vera (Kelly Hu) who he left it quite a lurch when he fled town a year ago and she’s not too happy to see him back in town either. He has a video tape of Joon making a transaction with this undercover cop (Mary Mara) who he blackmails. By doing this he has caught the attention of what I’m guessing is a hitman named Leon (A blond Russell Wong) who does a rather mean Christopher Walken. He also has Joon’s parents to deal with since they are curious as to where in the hell their son is. Sam however has a plan, I guess, and that involves introducing us to some more characters, a credit card scam and real depressed restaurant owner all in the hopes of getting his girl back. I guess.

Directed by Chris Chan Lee ‘Undoing’ was a strange Noir-esque film that had a narrative that was easy enough to understand but at the same time didn’t make a helluva lot sense. I guess the problem that I had with the film was that I was unsure as to what Sun Kang’s character of Sam was trying to accomplish, and as the character was written it didn’t seem as if Sam knew what he was doing either. On one hand you think the character is back in town for revenge, but no that’s not it. Then I suppose it's to lay his friend to rest, though it does seem odd that somebody didn’t stumble upon a brand new shiny car in a city of fifteen million for a whole year no matter how deep in the weeds you drove it. Then there’s the blackmail, the credit card scam the giving away of the money and it all seems as if he’s making it up as he was going along.

I also didn’t understand Russell Wong’s character though he does look cool as a blonde and does do a really nice Christopher Walken. If he was a hitman then why didn’t he just kill Sam when he first met him since it seemed easy enough to do. Only because the film needed some kind of exciting final gunplay did it unfold in its closing scenes the way that it did as far as I could see.

With the exception of the relationship between Sam and Joon none of the other relationships in this film seemed valid and again were unclear to me. Kang’s Sam and Hu’s Vera certainly didn’t come off as a legitimate couple as there was a disconnect between the pair with Hu's Vera seeming to be far too mature to have at any time called Sam ‘boyfriend’. The relationship between Vera and the restaurant owner played by Jose Zuniga remains a mystery and the relationship between Sam and Tom Bower’s Don was slightly cleared near the conclusion but still was vague at best.

As far as the performances go Sung Kang comes of as way to unsure of himself to sell me on the fact that he’s a criminal and the film suffers for it since the entire movie flows through his character. What worked so well for him Justin Lin’s ‘Finishing the Game’ doesn’t work so well for him here. The other performers seemed to do very well with what they were given, and though I’m not quite sure what purpose he served in this film, Russell Wong was a scene stealer as Leon the hitman. Lee attempted to spice up his rather pedestrian film with a few fancy camera tricks, some cool and clever lighting techniques, freeze frames and a nice looking, if somewhat overly long opening title sequence but ‘Undoing’ still suffered from lacking a certain pulse or beat to its narrative and felt much longer than in its ninety or so minutes belie.

Of course if you know us at the FCU then you also know we are overjoyed to see our Asian American brothers present us with a film without a single Kung-Fu fight, nary a prostitute in a cheongsam in sight and not one single delivery person, and giving us just a film about people doing what people do. Plus we’d pay good money just see Kelly Hu brush her teeth. None of this makes ‘Undoing’ move any faster, make any more sense or be any more entertaining which is unfortunate for me because I was really looking forward to this film and was ultimately disappointed by Mr. Lee’s final product.

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