Can we talk about that scene? The art of melodrama in Shock Wave
'Can we talk about that scene?' is a periodic instalment where memorable scenes are discussed. Given the nature of these pieces, we will be entering major spoiler territory and the film(s) in question will be stated upfront. For additional entries, please click here.
SPOILER ALERT for Shock Wave (2017).
Commercial filmmaking tends to be a regular offender of overdramatizing emotional moments in cinema. And I'm not talking about a straight forward character death or brief encounter with tragedy. Those moments can probably use a bit of melodrama. I'm talking about those moments that are already so burdened with emotional weight that sometimes it might be better to just leave things as is.
Case in point, that scene in Shock Wave when Babyjohn Choi's character is strapped to a vest laced with explosives, and the heroic Andy Lau is forced to abandon his rescue mission and walk away as he literally explodes behind him. Yeah, that happened. And for some not-so-surprising reason, Herman Yau decided to milk every moment of this intensely tragic scene. Choi is crying, Lau is screaming, and the two lament on the morality of being a righteous policeman. The surprising thing here, though, is that it works. What should've been a lame as balls depiction of a ridiculous situation, turns out to be the best part of a pretty average film.
So what happened here? As an Andy Lau fanboy, I'd be remiss if I didn't credit the man himself for selling a performance that could've been way out in the woods. In some ways, it is. He's pretty much yelling louder and louder as the scene progresses, but his convictions as a performer really come through and there's a hint of restraint in all this craziness. But to be completely fair, his counterpart pretty deserves even more credit. Although choosing a rather unfortunate stage name, Babyjohn Choi has been drifting around the Hong Kong cinema world for a while now, and I'm glad to see that he's getting more prominent roles. The guy can act, and this is just one of many scenes in his filmography that demonstrates his acting capabilities.
It's not hard to collect sympathy from audiences when your character gets blown to a million pieces by way of multiple charged explosives. But it is hard to earn that same degree of sympathy without being painted as completely over the top. Babyjohn (god, I wish he would change his name) manages to pull this off, and I can't think of a lot of young Hong Kong actors who could do the same. No matter how well put together some scenes are, there are certain things that simply just don't come together without the right performances. On paper, this was certainly one of those scenes and the fact that it worked the way it did is a testament to the skills of these two screaming thespians. Knowing Hong Kong cinema, they will no doubt try to top this scene in the sequel. I'm already waiting in anticipation.