Review By Jamie M MacDonald
A chance meeting at a job interview between Henry Cheung (Yeung Wai-Lun) and Angus Tong (Pui Tung Mak) sets in motion a diabolical plan to murder dismember and dispose of Henry`s parents. Both men are arrested for this shocking crime after Henry confesses to his cousin via WhatsApp. Once in police custody both men plead not guilty, giving similar but conflicting statements leaving their solicitors to convince 9 members of the jury of their innocence. Angus denies his involvement saying it was all Henry and he did not kill anyone. Henry says it was Angus`s plan and they would kill more people if they managed to get away with it. But who is telling the truth? Is Angus the slow minded loveable person he portrays? Or is Henry the cold arrogant mastermind who`s plan it was all along?
Director Cheuk TI Ho (Unbeatable) weaves a tangled web here as he delves deep into the psyche of both men. After they are arrested at the start of the film we are told in flashback up to the trial that took place in 2013. What is more disturbing is the fact that The Sparring Partner is based on a true life case. Where Henry convinced local press and the Hong Kong people that his parents were missing and he was desperately trying to find them. His smile and his acting fooled everyone until he confessed to his cousin that he killed them along with Angus. As soon as both men turn on each other, this is where the story comes into its own. The flashback scenes are shot in monochrome and add a film noir feel to it with the brilliant cinematography from Joseph Leung Yau- Cheong. Even their defence teams end up turning on each other as they battle it out in court. We have the Jury discussions that replay the crime over and over again where they point out something that you have missed and makes you question it all again. A sharp script from Frankie Tam and Thomas Leuang Wing-ho this film will keep you gripped right until the end and beyond. Some of the most disturbing scenes are the dreams that Henry has and his daydreaming. Yeung Wai-Lun plays him cold and calculating, he shows no remorse for the murders at all. Pui Tung Mak plays Angus for the sympathy vote – I was manipulated into this but had nothing to do with what happened it was all Henry.
The Sparring Partner is a hard film to watch but you feel compelled to watch it to its finale. It is one of the best court room dramas that I have seen in long time. Don`t take my word for it go out and seek out the most unnerving uncomfortable brutal character studies ever put on film. Is the partner Angus the silent partner he claims to be? Is Henry the cold calculated killer that did this for nothing more than his fifteen minutes of fame? All in all it is one of the best directed and scripted films of 2022….