Movie Review: Control (2013 China-HK film)

Control 2013 movie still - Daniel Wu at gunpoint by Leon Dai

An uninspiring ripoff of multiple works of others pointlessly set in a poorly crafted futuristic city, banking on Daniel Wu’s fanbase to sell

Verdict: Intriguing plot despite the familiar premise and style, but the lack of character development, cliched acting, predictable sequences, poorly written dialogues and badly dubbed Cantonese made it very difficult for me to take the film seriously. Control has heavy similarities with the cinematography of Sin City (2005) and the concept of The Usual Suspects (1995) but director-writer Kenneth Bi failed to materialise all these influences into a fresh inspiring thriller. Also, there’s actually no reason at all why the story has to be set in a futuristic world with cheap late 90s video game-like CGI. The film does have a few twists of its own, but when they are revealed at the end, the vague explanation doesn’t quite tally up with the events, or rather, it’s just very flawed.

Second opinion: To my girlfriend, Daniel Wu was the only attraction, regardless of his acting. She also felt that if she turned off her observant mind, she might’ve actually enjoyed the film.

Flaws in the plot and twist:

So the film kicks off with the protagonist Mark (Daniel Wu), an insurance agent whose motivation is to provide a better life for his mum, being kidnapped by a bunch of mobsters who accuse him of stealing their money. So he’s forced to retell his whole story on how he got involved, so detailed to the point that he even expresses how much he loves his mum and lover as though the villains are interested in hearing (but he isn’t told to cut the crap; oh how patient future gangsters are).

Mark is supposedly blackmailed by mysterious man, who has evidence on a false statement he made at court, to commit multiple crimes and help run illegal errands that lead to him being kidnapped and beaten. This mysterious man contacts him and few others who’s also being blackmailed through mobile phone, and they are being watched through city surveillance cameras everywhere they go. The dumb part is that sometimes the blackmailer knows everything that’s happening by simply looking through the cameras, and sometimes he conveniently doesn’t. It’s also not explained why he has access to control and view all the cameras.

At the end, it’s revealed that Mark’s the one who set himself up to be “controlled” by the mysterious man in order to take revenge for his parents by causing betrayal and chaos within the mob. This mysterious man is actually the fellow who kidnapped him, Devil (Leon Dai), the trusted assistant of the mob boss, Tiger (Simon Yam). In the explanation finale, it’s not explained how Mark manages to find out that Devil likes to “control” people the way he does, and how his other childhood friends managed to fit into the whole plan, which shouldn’t even work in the first place ’cause there’s no way to know which “controlled” victim Devil was going to use in his schemes.

The biggest plot hole is perhaps the scene where Mark is told by the mysterious man to meet up with Devil (yes, himself but at this point of the story, the audience doesn’t know he’s the villain yet) for an illegal trade of firearms. Mark’s two friends tagged along, one is also a “controlled” victim (it’s not explained how this one set himself up to be blackmailed as well) and the other is not but how come that doesn’t seem to red flag Devil on the spot?

Possible box office flop? It’s going to be interesting to see if Daniel Wu’s charm could save the film from being a complete failure. Control only made around $7 million in China, it’s just released here in Malaysia/Singapore with minimum advertising and by the time it opens in Hong Kong next year, there might be enough reviews to turn some moviegoers away.

Control Daniel Wu  meme

Malaysian censorship: Only one sequence is noticeably chopped off at the premiere screening held at GSC Mid Valley. It’s most likely a love scene.

Rating: 2 / 5

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Control 2013 chinese hk film daniel wu malaysia movie poster
Chinese title: 控制
Based on: Original story by Jack Messitt entitled “Remote Control”
Language: Cantonese
Rated: 18
Genre: Thriller
Running Time: 93 minutes
Director-writer: Kenneth Bi
Cast: Daniel Wu, Yao Chen, Leon Dai, Simon Yam, Kara Hui Ying Hong

Synopsis: Set in an unnamed modern metropolis in Asia, and sometime in the near future, “Control” is the first Chinese co-production to feature a stylish computer-generated contemporary visual world, encapsulating a riveting story, a stellar cast and an exceptional original score.

Malaysia release date: December 19th 2013
Local distributor: GSC Movies
Studio(s): Sil-Metropole, Media Asia Films, Celestial Pictures, and more

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  1. Elwyn~!

    Weeee, another chinese movie review. Ehhh, I also watch this ok. Now I shall cut down a little bit on the vulgarities just to show what i thought about the movie.

    First off, cibai the CG of the city super damn fake old school la. This one can pass of if it was at least 10 years ago lor. I laughed when they showed the city. And seriously hardcore la the stupid branding there. 2 very very obvious brands to me though. No free advertisement for them here lor, not gonna mention them.

    Now moving on next. When Daniel Wu first get caught, how can so ngam when he fall, his left eye can ngam ngam fall onto the bad guy's fist le? That kind of weight should have at least left the bad guy a really sore arm trying to support a guys weight on his fist alone. DAFUQ~!

    Now moving on, as Daniel began to tell his story, well, it was quite a believable story la. Then comes the stupid video camera thingy, which reminds me of a TV series call Person of Interest. I thought it was that, plus it also had some similarities to Getaway from this year's movie. I dunno about the movies Tony shared, but I felt it was similar to these 2 for me.

    The only thing that pisses me off is that despite being far in the future, they still had to use vintage cars and like current present cars instead of using smart cars or even electric cars. CIBAI THE PHONE GOT HOLOGRAM LE~!!! Why can't that car have a hologram too, and why does he need to fucking touch the touch screen to answer a call. Cant he just use voice to answer call, we got Siri to do that shit yet future dont have that shit? Car tech and phone tech doesnt tally. Super pissed off trying to pass off as future. MAKE MORE EFFORT PLEASE. Can use BMW old model somemore. Cibai mou liu lor. All the phones super high tech with hologram but they still have to press the screen to answer, dont have samsung tech where put to ear straight away answer. BODOH~!

    Moving on from the tech, as much as Tony says there are flaws in the movie, I can see some reasoning to a certain degree that actually covers the plothole, the greatest flaw to me was the fact that MACIBAI STUPID VOICE, you don't have another phone to make the call one meh? CIBAI USE YOUR OWN PERSONAL PHONE. The voice villain is super duper stupid lor, thats why Daniel can set him to provide him info on his childhood friends which the voice villain can use to his advantage. Nice plot, but could have been soooo much better if the villain wasnt that stupid.

    Last but not least hor, i think this would have been the greatest flaw, UNLESS it was staged by Daniel. The kid he had with the girl. HOW THE FUCK YOU NOT KNOW ABOUT THE KID and then can use the mother of the kid in your life long plan to get your fucking revenge. BODOH SIAL~!!! Think about it, if he planned the thing since they were kids, he should have known about the kid to plant the details of the kid to the voice villain. He is just a shitty father abandoning his kid and using his kid for his revenge. Cibai punya father. The rest of his childhood friends seems simple enough to cover.

    So overall le, this movie is not bad. Not as super weird as the Firestorm where there is a superhuman cop who doesnt die one.

    1. Post

      We can indeed forcefully think of a few reasoning to cover up the flaws in the big reveal, but the point is that Kenneth Bi's too lazy to come up with his own dot connectors. Many of the dialogues were stating the obvious, and then suddenly at the end it became vague and overly simple. This is not thought-provoking, it's just either lazy or lack of vision to write/direct for such complex films.

      I agree completely about the technology. It's really stupid of the production to set in the future when there's absolutely no need to. He could've set it in present time or if he's more creative, he could've set the story in the 90s even. They want futuristic, but they lack of imagination, and are too lazy to make it significant.

      And yes, also about the kid. [Spoilers] At the end where Jessica tells her son to call Mark's mother grandma it only indicates that this whole set up wasn't really planned before Mark finds out about Jessica and their son. With that being said, Kenneth Bi has made himself look kinda stupid for putting this additional, needless scene in. As said in the review, the explanation just doesn't quite tally up everything.

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