Just a few short minutes into Limbo, it becomes evident that director Soi Cheang’s latest isn’t going to offer all that many surprises. Around the same point, it’s clear that this doesn’t matter in the slightest. The film offers a stripped-down, electrifying experience on the simplest of terms – no more, no less.
Grizzled veteran cop Cham Lau (Lam Ka Tung) is haunted by the demons of his past, as grizzled veteran cops often are. He’s paired with a by-the-book rookie Will Ren (Mason Lee) as they hunt for a serial killer stalking the streets of Hong Kong, hacking off the hapless hands of his victims. It’s an understatement to say that things turn rather gruesome.
Mismatched archetypes working towards a common goal hardly counts as innovation, and the two protagonists are clearly established by doing little more than aggressively demonstrating various character traits. And yet the whole feature feels fresh and lively, despite an ever-present gloom which is practically fetishised. Cheang has elected to shoot in ravishing black and white, giving everything a clean crispness – even knife fights in rubbish-strewn alleys. The threat of extreme violence is always simmering in the background, and one particular incident is depicted with such brutality that it’s disconcerting to sit through.
The few moments of quiet contemplation that the piece offers tend to be shot from a slight overhead angle, giving the impression that all parties are little more than rats in a maze. This is in contrast to the grand cityscape of Hong Kong, which is captured in a way that almost seems to distort its dimensions.
Any subtext to the film is subjective, incidental, and not even all that relevant. Limbo barrels along at such an obligingly brisk pace that any type of motivation isn’t dwelt upon; it’s really just a case of enjoying the controlled chaos.
Limbo does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Limbo here: